Meanwhil e, Mr. Auster mutates from a father figure for a girl who desperately needs one to something much more complex, culminating in an act of betrayal at the finals in Florida. There she puts aside the poem about her father and reads one about her teacher instead, exposing his own tortured personal life.
The performances here top-notch across the board. Strathairn successfully captures the tormented rationalization that transforms him from an education professional hesitant to encourage a teenage girl's fantasies to an extremely unhappy, creatively unfulfilled man who sees a young talent as his opportunity to begin anew. And Bruckner conveys the pathos of what it is to be a neglected teen with too many responsibilities and not enough supervision.
But it is Arnold as Lily who may be the real find, quietly acting out in ways that at first seem superfluous or supportive but culminating in a plot-turning moment of supreme tragedy. Even before her climactic act, Arnold shares real chemistry with her on-screen sibling, emulating to near perfection the charged relationship--in which sisters vandalize each other's things for no apparent reason--that ultimately is among the most intimate in the film. Starring David Strathairn, Agnes Bruckner, Margaret Colin, Frances Fisher, AJ Buckley and Regan Arnold. Directed and written by Karen Moncrieff. Produced by Peer Oppenheimer. A Miramax release. Drama. Not yet rated. Running time: 96 min