Searching for Bobby Fischer [1993]

Steve Zaillian, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of Schindler's List, made his directorial debut with this critically acclaimed but little-seen drama based on the nonfiction book by Fred Waitzkin, about a father (Joe Mantegna) who discovers that his seven-year-old son (Max Pomeranc) is a genius at playing chess. The boy plays chess for fun, but when he's tutored by a former champion (Ben Kingsley) and entered into high-pressure competitions, an enjoyable pastime becomes a source of tension and resentment, forcing the father to reconsider his parental priorities. A poignant study of the difference between parental idealism and proper parenting, the movie is also an observantly witty portrait of a precocious child who is still, after all, a child, and still eager for the joyful discoveries of youth. While offering a fascinating look into the world of competitive chess, the movie's dramatically engrossing and extremely well-acted by a brilliant cast that also includes David Paymer, William H. Macy, and Dan Hedaya in memorable supporting roles. --Jeff Shannon

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