It's hard not to feel, well, torn about "Torn," a post-post-9/11 melodrama that only occasionally lives up to its noble ambitions.
The film sets out to follow the dynamic that develops between very different mothers whose teenage sons are killed, along with eight others, in a Northern California shopping mall explosion. But the friendship of these women — Pakistani American Maryam (Mahnoor Baloch) and the rougher-hewn Lea (Dendrie Taylor) — never really gets going before they are at odds. (Maryam's son, largely because of his ethnicity, is suspected of having planted the deadly bomb).
The focus shifts to the grieving mothers' wavering relationships with their late sons' fathers: Maryam's conflicted Muslim husband, Ali (Faran Tahir), and Lea's intolerant born-again Christian ex-spouse, Charles (Patrick St. Esprit).
Meanwhile, the investigation, headed by a quasi-supportive police detective (John Heard) and a businesslike FBI agent (Sharon Washington), comes off a bit rote and truncated. More compelling are the revelations Maryam and Lea uncover as they retrace their sons' last months.
Though "Torn" contains its share of convincingly lived-in moments, there's a heavy-handed quality to both Jeremiah Birnbaum's direction and the script by Michael Richter that often undermines the movie's potential to truly grip and move.
The film's coda, however, is so entirely — and unexpectedly — satisfying it somehow rights many of the wrongs that precede it.
MPAA rating: None
Running time: 1 hour, 19 minutes. In English and Urdu with English subtitles
Playing: Laemmle's Music Hall, Beverly Hills; Edwards' Westpark 8, Irvine.