Sling Blade (1996) Directed by Billy Bob Thornton. With Billy Bob Thornton, Dwight Yoakam, John Ritter, Lucas Black, Natalie Canerday, J.T Walsh and Robert Duvall.
Billy Bob Thornton writes, directs and gives an utterly engrossing central performance in this deeply affecting story of a simple man with a troubled past, who after having spent his entire adult life hospitalised in a psychiatric unit, is set free to find his place in a world in which he is not an easy fit. With so much to recommend, from the beautiful simplicity of the direction, which captures every nuance of acting skill from an excellent cast, to the moving screenplay and atmospheric original music created by Daniel Lanois, Sling Blade is high on emotional resonance.
Billy Bob Thornton’s Oscar-nominated portrayal of ‘Karl’ is something to behold. The unlikely relationships he forges once out in the world are both touching and life-affirming. That this is Thornton’s first directorial feature speaks volumes of his talent and sensitivity. In lesser hands, the story might easily have strayed into over-sentimentalisation, but the balance is never allowed to tip that way, and the ability to let the story tell itself without resorting to grandstanding allows for subtleties to evolve within the drama. If you’re a fan of human interest films and want to see a powerhouse of a character piece, I wouldn’t just recommend Sling Blade, I’d call it essential viewing. 5/5