If you ever find yourself traveling down Interstate 49 through Missouri, try not to blink—you may miss Rich Hill, population 1,396. Rich Hill is easy to overlook, but its inhabitants are as woven into the fabric of America as those living in any small town in the country. This movie intimately chronicles the turbulent lives of three boys living in said Midwestern town and the fragile family bonds that sustain them.
At first rather annoying in its heavy emphasis on reenactments, this movie ultimately proves fascinating, simply because the complicated, highly dramatic tale it tells still almost defies belief.
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Im baffled as to why this film gets such poor, or at least middling, reviews. This is one of the most captivating documentaries/films/shows i've ever watched. Im glad the filmmakers didn't try to explain the whys or wherefores, they just allowed the boys, their homes, the location to be the story in a truly fascinating and wonderful way. The relationship between andrew and his father is one of the most superbly captured father/son relationships I've ever seen on screen. I don't understand how people can feel frustration or anger while watching this movie and then give it a poor review. You're supposed to feel frustrated and angry! You're supposed to like Andrew! He seems like a great kid! You're supposed to want to give that other kid a kick in the ass! And his mom! To me thats the beauty of this film. I laughed, got mad, and even cried while watching it. I experienced the full spectrum of emotion throughout the 90or so mins Super filmmaking - I wish i could erase it from my memory so i could watch it anew all over again.
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My wife and I both enjoyed this documentary, and we each felt pretty low after watching it. It was really well done, but it left a sour taste for sure, like biting into your first unripened persimmon. I both agree and disagree with the reviewer from Michigan. I think the point about this documentary not having a story arc is valid. There really is no growth in anyone in the film; they leave the film as they entered it, some pathetic and lazy, some disturbed, some ever-hopeful. But I think as a documentary, the film is entitled to do that. Perhaps that was the filmmakers' objective: Life in rural, poverty-stricken Missouri is like an unripe persimmon. Here's your bite. It sucks, and the unpleasant after-effects of that experience will linger for a long time. I also agree that this leaves me wanting more. I'd love a Ken Burns' style mega-doc that explores the how and the why of that slice of life. Poverty is certainly a spoke on that wheel - perhaps even the hub- but it's far from the only reason we felt so often disturbed by what we saw on the screen. Which leads me to my major disagreement with Michigan's review, which to me was a belief that there weren't many kids/families that could be that disturbed, lazy, dysfunctional, etc., or that the film presented that dynamic in an incorrect proportion to the reality. I spent twenty-plus years as a family therapist in a treatment center for severely emotionally disturbed kids and their families from rural and urban areas. They exist. Families and kids fall apart for multiple reasons. The families in this film had few options to help them deal with the ever- increasing severity of their problems. Poor people love their kids as much as rich people do; they just have far fewer ways to access help when things start falling apart. The juvenile justice system should be the last resort. There's no resources in these impoverished areas to help the more severe cases. But what I was really left with after watching this film was this: I know another reviewer requested this not be compared to Ferguson. I really want the comparison. When you look at the underlying dynamics of a community like Rich Hill versus an inner city neighborhood, there are many similarities: poverty level; educational opportunities through public education; strong family ties; mental illness; medical issues; unemployment and lack of available jobs. How are the impoverished citizens of Rich Hill exploited any less than any impoverished inner-city resident? Are their reactions to their situations different? If so, why? I'd love to see a filmmaker explore that.
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My curiosity about this film stemmed from the fact that I have family that live in and around Rich Hill, Missouri. Our family reunion is held in Rich Hill every year. My family members prosper in the farming industry so I had no clue that this much abject poverty was so prevalent in that community.Having said that, I agree with the reviewer from Michigan. This is a heartbreaking depiction of life for these kids...but it's the utter disdain I feel for their parents and guardians that made it so difficult for me to watch. As Michigan said...there's no ARC...and the idyllic images of girls doing cartwheels at the yearly 4th of July parade could not offset the gut wrenching sorrow I felt when having to endure the other scenes.Look, the film is extremely well made. I'm not proud that I struggled through the viewing, It's not like I'm one of those film goers who wants nothing but "rainbows and unicorns"...But this was just too depressing.
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My wife and I both looked forward to seeing this at the Traverse CIty Film Festival. Living in an impoverished area of Michigan makes us have first-hand compassion for those who have so little. But this movie seemed to us to be little more than a repetitive and depressing look at families going nowhere. There was absolutely no arc in the documentary study of 3 young boys who ended up with little more knowledge or ability to cope at the end of the film than when it started. No one seemed any wiser or less clueless. The film follows 3 young boys (why not at least one girl??) and, unfortunately, two are clearly psychiatrically challenged. Only Andrew seems to have some ability to logically analyze his sad situation and the failures of the adults around him. Harley is "scary" unbalanced emotionally with huge outbursts of violence (especially so, when one sees him fondling knives in a store and knowing he will soon be legally able to purchase guns). Appachey is very similar. Both have completely unrealistic expectations of their future. It is hard for me to understand that the filmmakers say they come from this area and know this poverty firsthand. I see the working (and non-working) poor everyday as a physician who sees such patients. There are a few who resemble these boys and their families but most do not. When viewers see the families in this film continuously chugging down high-caffeine drink (and with the adults, beer), and chain- smoking, while playing video games day and night, it makes it pretty hard to be sympathetic. The poor in my practice hunt, fish, spend time with their kids, and basically do the best they can. These parents lay in bed all day and call the truant officers when their kids become too much for them. The images presented here just seems so far from the reality I have seen in my patients living in poverty. And, as I said, no arc and no story is being told except that these people are living an existence they are unlikely to ever escape. We were very disappointed.