The Weekly Watch: “Sling Blade” (8/10)

Released+in+1996%2C+%22Sling+Blade%22+tells+the+story+of+Karl+Childers%2C+a+man+recently+dismissed+from+a+local+mental+hospital.+

Alisha Vargas via Flickr

Released in 1996, "Sling Blade" tells the story of Karl Childers, a man recently dismissed from a local mental hospital.

Sling Blade, is a complex drama that manages to capture a man’s life story in just two hours— a short amount of time for a massive plot. Even more impressive is the filming duration, 24 days, which is extremely unusual for a film as cerebrally pleasing as Sling Blade.

 

Billy Bob Thornton’s cinematic masterpiece captures the hearts of viewers with a plotline that tugs at the heartstrings of all who become emotionally invested in the film. The dialogue is compelling and reveals crucial information without being obvious or pressing. However, the aspect that makes the film is the on-screen acting chemistry between Thornton and fellow actor Lucas Black. Both men’s lines are delivered flawlessly and so realistically that I found myself getting lost in the story. Although both Thornton and Black are talented individually, their acting together as friends truly convinces the viewers that Sling Blade is a film worth watching.

 

Aside from the captivating plot and the gripping dialogue, the film realistically depicts the opinions concerning mental illness and briefly touches on the view homosexuality in the Deep South, both of which are somewhat considered “taboo”. As far as mental illness, the idea of staying in a mental hospital appears to be shameful, as some characters in the film refer to it as a “nut house” or “nervous hospital”. Likewise, homosexuality was considered sinful and distasteful. The character Doyle Hargraves, portrayed by Dwight Yoakam, is a symbol of the stereotypical “redneck” view of a particular group Southerners at the time, which more often than not happened to be the majority. In fact, one of the most revealing quotes from Yoakam says, “I don’t like homosexuals and she goes out and buddies up with one so I gotta deal with that. I don’t like little wimpy-ass kids or mental retards and she got one of each livin’ with her.” Instead of condoning this particular behaviour, Sling Blade helps to identify it.

 

The characters are relatable and admirable in ways, and viewers can definitely learn valuable lessons from the movie when recognized. All in all, Sling Blade establishes a set time period and setting in America and helps to outline and illuminate stereotypes that need addressing, for one never truly knows a person until walking in their shoes for a time.