Undertow (2004)

TOMATOMETER

Critic Consensus: Undertow's gently fantastical elements are balanced by fully realized characters and a story with genuine, steadily accumulating emotional weight.

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Chris (Jamie Bell of Billy Elliot) is a volatile teen who lives with his father, John (Dermot Mulroney), and his little brother, Tim (Devon Alan). After the death of Chris' mother, his reclusive father moved the family to a shack in backwoods Georgia, where they raise hogs. Tim has an unusual eating disorder. He is constantly making himself sick by eating things like dirt and paint. One day, John's estranged brother, Deel (Josh Lucas), gets out of prison and shows up on the farm. John is less than thrilled to see him, but agrees to let him stay with the family as long as Deel helps him look after his boys. Chris is drawn to his wild-man uncle, but it soon becomes clear that Deel has more on his mind than a family reunion. Greed and years of resentment lead to violence, and Chris finds himself on the run, towing his sickly brother along, with Deel in pursuit. Undertow is writer/director David Gordon Green's third feature film, and features many of the same crew as his previous films, George Washington and All the Real Girls, including cinematographer Tim Orr. Green, who co-wrote the script with Joe Conway, has cited the influence of filmmaker Terrence Malick, who is credited as a producer. Green was also influenced by low-budget regional films of the 1970s (like Macon County Line and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) and by Charles Laughton's classic The Night of the Hunter. Undertow was selected by the Film Society of Lincoln Center for inclusion in the 2004 New York Film Festival.

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Critic Reviews for Undertow

All Critics (119) | Top Critics (37)

A deep-fried piece of Southern Gothic that wears its unpleasantness like a merit badge...

Mar 26, 2009 | Full Review…
Variety
Top Critic

Green's signature pastoral tangents and codeine pacing don't slow down this tale of two boys fleeing their psychotic uncle so much as inappropriately slacken any of the story's suspenseful aspects.

Aug 16, 2007
Time Out
Top Critic

Green's characters often find themselves in raw, unprotected moments, but Undertow also can feel a little too mesmerized by its own junkyard visions.

Dec 10, 2004 | Rating: C

The film's first half is hypnotically watchable.

Dec 9, 2004 | Rating: B-

Green is all surface and no depth in his effort to channel the late novelist William Faulkner.

Nov 19, 2004 | Rating: 2/5

There's certainly nothing wrong with trying to make a movie visually pleasing, but it shouldn't come until after there's a good plot and intriguing characters.

Nov 11, 2004 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Undertow

½

Looked promising, but ultimately underwhelming. Also, Kristen Stewart is in this for about ten minutes, if that, so don't let that be a deciding factor in watching this! The first few minutes seemed interesting and it had it's moments, including a small appearance by Shiri Appleby, but I just found it did not hold my attention particularly well.

Nicki Marie
Nicki Marie

Super Reviewer

Jamie Bell, Devon Alan, Dermot Mulrony, Josh Lucas, Kristen Stewart "Can I carve my name in your face?" David Gordon Green is surely becoming one of my favorite directors. I have read that they call his directing "Southern Gothic". I like it. His movie's are not predictable. Undertow is set in the South of Georgia, and its a dramatic thriller about two brothers, Chris and Tom, who are on the run from their greedy Uncle Deel after the death of their father. It's really sad. The youngest brother is ill and likes to eat odd things like paint and mudd. On their journey they come in contact with some characters that help them on their way. Really great performances from Devon Alan. He becomes the character, it's like he isn't even trying. Loved that, exspecially for him being so young. Jamie Bell is a favorite of mine. I thought he was amazing. Josh Lucas was really good. Seen a few of his movies lately and I really like his work acting.

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Super Reviewer

½

Heartbreaking yet very fulfilling in accomplishment.

Leigh Ryan
Leigh Ryan

Super Reviewer

Southern Gothic tale of a family in crisis. Jamie Bell plays Chris Munn, a volatile teen who runs away from home, bringing his sickly brother along. Deel Munn, the boys' uncle, pursues them. Why, is a question best left answered by watching the movie. However, the reason will be the only excitement you'll find in this rather uninteresting film. The random characters the boys meet along the way are a poor excuse for a plot. Two plusses: another great score by master composer Philip Glass and some stylish cinematography by Tim Orr.

Mark Hobin
Mark Hobin

Super Reviewer

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