Parallel Sons Review
By Don Willmott
Deep in New York's Adirondack mountains is a tiny town that no one ever seems to leave. It's here that writer/director John G. Young sets Parallel Sons, a downer about repression, impossible love, small-mindedness, and fear. No one wants to get out of town more than 20-year-old Seth (Gabriel Mann), a somewhat aimless young man who for some reason has taken on the trappings of black urban life, from the graffiti in his bedroom to the carefully cultivated strawberry blonde dreadlocks atop his head. Seth has never been to New York, but he longs to attend NYU. Fat chance, says his mean widowed dad, who considers financial aid to be welfare.
Seth passes his time working down at the diner, and it's there that he's held up by an escaped con with the unlikely name of Knowledge Johnson (Laurence Mason). Knowledge is suffering from a gunshot wound, and after he faints, Seth spirits him off to a hidden family cabin to nurse him back to health. You get the impression that Knowledge is the first real black person Seth has ever seen.
At the same time, Seth is fending off the advances of Kristen (Heather Gottlieb), who doesn't seem to notice that all the magazine photos that decorate Seth's bedroom are of good-looking black men, not women. True love is blind. Seth kicks her out of bed -- literally -- and focuses all his energy on Knowledge.
Over time, the two develop a bond and share their feelings of isolation. No one understands you? Wow, no one understands me, either. Let's be friends and understand each other! But it won't be easy to hide a wanted black man in what may be the whitest small town in America. Once Kristen figures out what's going on, her jealousy and incipient psychosis puts Seth and Knowledge, who are quickly falling hard for each other, into serious danger.
Parallel Sons is the unlikeliest of love stories, and it races along toward an inevitable tragedy that's positively Shakespearian in its misery. You want these two good-hearted strivers to run away together, to make it to the Canadian border and build a new life in Toronto or something, but Young is realistic enough to know that such an ending wouldn't work in a movie that's very nicely grounded in its scenic, if oppressive, environs. Mann and Mason do what they can with the unusual relationship they must portray, and they're touching at times, but it becomes impossible to excuse the many bad decisions the young friends make on their doomed path to freedom.
Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Thursday 7th November 1996
Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5
Cast & Crew
Screenwriter: John G. Young
Starring: Gabriel Mann as Seth Carlson, Laurence Mason as Knowledge Johnson, Murphy Guyer as Sheriff Mott, Graham Alex Johnson as Peter Carlson, Heather Gottlieb as Kristen Mott, Josh Hopkins as Marty, Maureen Shannon as Francine, Julia Weldon as Sally Carlson