Julian Po [1997]

Based on a Serbo-Croation story, this film by Alan Wade is set in rural Appalachia and stars Christian Slater as a suicidal stranger whose car breaks down on a long pilgrimage to the ocean. The locals greet him with suspicion, but when they find out that he has death on his mind, he becomes a local celebrity, treated with kindness and made a confidante of many who have troubles to share. The irony is that this rise in esteem is exactly the antidote to his self-destructive urges--but will these good people understand if he changes his mind? Wade's low-key approach is a good choice for this character-driven story, but his portrayal of rural types is a bit tainted by the clich├ęs of TV's Northern Exposure and Doc Hollywood, stories where small-town folk are automatically eccentric. Still, this is a pleasant enough film about a highly unusual subject. --Tom Keogh

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