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'The Ocean of Helena Lee' is narratively thin and strained

'The Ocean of Helena Lee' is narratively thin and strained
Moriah Blonna stars in the film "The Ocean of Helena Lee." (Shootist Films)

Set in Venice Beach, the fractured family movie "The Ocean of Helena Lee" is musician-writer-director Jim Akin's strained ode to the mysteries, fears and joys of uncertain childhood.

Helena (newcomer Moriah Blonna) is a precociously philosophical 12-year-old who sleeps in the closet of her surf rat and strip club drummer dad's apartment, forever mourning the death of her nurturing mother (singer-songwriter Maria McKee, seen as a veiled apparition). Helena's also a budding writer who wanders the sands, sidewalks and crevices of freak-show Venice, musing aloud (through narration or directly to others) Life's Big Questions or saying things like, "I'm contemplating the ideal woman," and "I like to learn. I don't like to be taught."

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Dad (Tom Dunne) is no less grounded a character, since he only pontificates ("I recommend slowing time down") or carouses with the club's female performers.

Unless you're on this spiritually noodling movie's wavelength — an easier proposition when the great McKee is singing (she wrote the music with Akin) — this is narratively thin, tone-poem stuff: pretty images of raggedly beautiful L.A. set to a driving score, with emotions always at a music-video remove.

"The Ocean of Helena Lee."

No MPAA rating.

Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes.

Playing: Egyptian, Hollywood.

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