Benefit of the Doubt

(Jonathan Heap, US, 1993)


Benefit of the Doubt is a thriller that chooses to toy with the psychological ambiguities common to the genre.

Donald Sutherland gives a creepy performance as a man who has spent twenty years in jail for the murder of his wife. He was convicted on the testimony of his then-young daughter, and now that he’s free the doubt resurfaces: did the girl just imagine what she saw? And is Daddy a nice guy after all?

Amy Irving plays the grown-up daughter struggling with these knotty questions, and eventually unplugging an even deeper well of familial fear and desire.

Sutherland’s character is a captivating mix of seductiveness and monstrosity: one moment he’s going berserk in the name of the happy American family (like in the Stepfather films); and the next he’s teaching the rednecks down at the local bar a lesson or two about sexual harassment.

Director Jonathan Heap has fashioned a modest but intriguing movie.

© Adrian Martin December 1993

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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