The United States of Leland is an excellent film to which we give our very rare Five Star rating. Leland Fitzgerald is a high school student who is accused of the brutal murder of a learning disabled boy who was his good friend.
Leland (brilliantly played by Ryan Gosling) does not seem like he could possibly be capable of any kind of violence. Leland is very gentle and looks at the world differently than most people around him. Leland looks deeply at the world in a way that most high school students do not. At one point he says,
“I think there are two ways you can see the world. You either see the sadness that’s behind everything, or you choose to keep it out.”
Don Cheadle plays Pearl Pollard, a teacher in the juvenile detention center where Leland is sent awaiting trial. He and Leland have long conversations about all aspects of life, and Pearl becomes fascinated with the complexity of this young man and his views on life. Pearl is genuinely interested in Leland, but also has an ulterior motive. Pearl is an aspiring but unpublished writer and he wants to get close to an infamous murderer and write his story. Pearl sees himself as a current-day Truman Capote writing another In Cold Blood.
However there is some competition for Leland’s story. Leland’s father (played by Kevin Spacey) is a world famous novelist. A divorced dad who has not seen his son in years, he suddenly shows up wanting to write the story himself.
Throughout the movie, we are kept guessing as to what the real story actually is. We are shown only bits and pieces in flashbacks. Everything shown indicates that the murdered child was someone who Leland watched over and cared for. The boy was also the brother of Leeland’s girlfriend Becky. (Played perfectly by Jena Malone). Becky has many issues of her own and in the past it was always Leland who helped her through rough times.
It is not until the very end of the movie that we discover the truth of what really happened.
All the actors in the film give superb performances. The script is brilliant and it is a film that will touch you deeply.
We Rate this Film Five Stars *****