"Cleaver's Destiny" is an earnest but ultimately amateur production on all fronts that misses an opportunity to deal seriously with topics writer-director-star Karl Lentini obviously cares about.
Veterans and homelessness, mental illness and PTSD, abandoned families and daughters with daddy issues all make appearances, piling on to a point that gives short shrift to all of them. Worse, the film risks patronizing the very group for which it's advocating.
Amy Cleaver (newcomer Jenny Leona di Gennaro) has just been dumped by her boyfriend — an older, married man who also happened to be her teacher — when she decides to look for her dad, Bill (Lentini), who disappeared after returning from the first Gulf War. She eventually stumbles upon him living on the streets, and he's harmless enough, if a little spacey from dementia, to take home and clean up — after she dresses like a bag lady herself and plays war games with him in the park.
She takes him to the VA for evaluation, but there's zero acknowledgment of the bureaucratic red tape a veteran like him might face before getting treatment nor of the dangerous reality of ill-equipped families dealing with mental disease.
Meanwhile, modest production values aren't the only measure of the quality, but here the flat camera work, uneven sound quality, generic soundtrack and uninspired performances don't help a sincere concept that's neither creatively nor compellingly executed.
— Annlee Ellingson
"Cleaver's Destiny." No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes. At Laemmle Playhouse 7, Pasadena.
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