In Tim Kirkman's thoughtful "Loggerheads," a young drifter, Mark (Kip Pardue), with an interest in saving loggerhead turtles arrives in one of their sanctuaries, Kure Beach, N.C., in the summer of 1999. He attracts the attention of George (Michael Kelly), the kindly proprietor of a motel who gives him shelter. Both men happen to be gay, but George is a self-possessed guy who does not expect sex in return for a free room, and a friendship develops.
The following year, in Eden, N.C., Elizabeth (Tess Harper), the wife of fundamentalist minister Robert (Chris Sarandon), bakes a pie as a welcoming gift to her new neighbors, but when she sees a small boy with two men she wrongly assumes are a gay couple, she decides not to give it to them. Yet there is a deep restlessness and uncertainty in Elizabeth, who in spite of adhering to her husband's calm absolutism, cannot stop thinking for herself, as painful as it is for her.
In 2001, Grace (Bonnie Hunt), an attractive blond in her 40s, has returned to her hometown, Asheville, N.C., after many years to take an airline job and to live with her widowed mother, Sheridan (Michael Learned). Pressured by her mother, Grace gave up for adoption the baby she bore out of wedlock at age 17. Now she wants to locate the child but is blocked by North Carolina adoption privacy laws.
To be sure these groups of people, introduced in different years in different places within the same state, will intersect. Inspired by a real incident, "Loggerheads" is primarily composed of the stories of individuals who have either followed the dictates of social conventions and attitudes or rigid religious doctrines instead of their hearts and as a result have pretty much wrecked their own lives as well as those of others.
"Loggerheads" is a warm, even loving film, focusing on Elizabeth and Grace's struggles to come to terms with themselves and the drastic decisions that were foisted on them and to work toward some kind of peace and self-acceptance in the face of essentially tragic results. Kirkman's understated approach allows Harper and Hunt to create beautifully shaded portrayals and allows an ensemble cast to reveal layers in their characters, with Kelly's George emerging as an especially likable and mature presence. For a film in a naturalistic mode, "Loggerheads" gets a shade too elliptical at its finish but still leaves a deep impression as to how irrevocable life's choices can be.
MPAA rating: Unrated
Times guidelines: Adult themes, some coarse language
A Strand Releasing presentation. Writer-director Tim Kirkman. Producer Gill Holland. Cinematographer Oliver Bokelberg. Editor Caitlin Dixon. Music Mark Geary. Costumes Susan Oliver. Production designer Jim "Jungle" Shaughnessy. Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes.
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