He’s a good guy. He treats his wife to an elegant dinner, spends time with their son at the playground, teaches at the community college. A nice guy. An ordinary guy. Not awesome. Not always quick on the uptake, a few pounds overweight, sometimes naïve.
But now he’s at the visiting room at the county jail. The woman in the red scrub top—that’s his wife. She’s in jail for murder. Her face is hard, her jaw tight. Her eyes bore into his. She leans forward. Listen to her.
“You know, you never even asked me if I did it. If I killed her.”
He stares at the table top before him for a second, then looks at her.
“Because I knew you didn’t.”
Her attorney has told him that he needs to just look at the evidence. His parents feel sorry that he won’t accept the truth. She’ll be locked up for the next twenty years. But now, she—his wife—is here, in front of him. Speaking to him.
“Then you’d be wrong,” she says. “I did it.”
He’s a good guy. He treated his wife to an elegant dinner, spent time with their son at the playground, taught at the community college. A nice guy. An ordinary guy. Not awesome.
But he’s going to break his wife out of jail.
The film’s “hero” is hardly that. He buys a gun, but doesn’t know where the bullets go. He cruises through dark alleys and rubs shoulders with other social strata in seedy bars, but stands out like the middle-class white guy he is. A stressful interrogation by a suspicious prison official makes him violently sick. Unlike the Hollywood heroes who can shoot, fight, track and lie with proficiency, this one learns from library books and YouTube videos.
But despite his naïve hopefulness and combed incompetence, his is a dogged perseverance and fidelity. He exhausts every legal avenue, earning his attorney’s ire. His face perpetually sports the cuts and scars of backstreet battles, but eventually makes it to the front of a false passport. His search for the key to releasing his wife is abruptly broken off, but he finds that even locked doors can be opened. Challenged to abandon everything, he remains faithful to what he most holds dear.
His ordinariness, his ignorance of how to load a gun, his uncool car, his aggravating short-sightedness in discarding incriminating papers—all these do not obscure who he is. He may know nothing about jailbreaks, but at his core is an unrestrainable loyalty. He may be betrayed, ambushed, attacked, threatened; people may die. But his devotion does not.
He never tells his wife he loves her, but he does. There is some passionate, physical face-to-face in the film, but if anything this seems fleeting and shallow. Instead it is the little things, strung together in long, unbroken chains—the way he throws out playful, tongue-in-cheek comments to make her smile; the way he keeps coming back, month over month, to visit her in jail; the way he looks at and cares for their son; the way he rebuffs that pretty brunette, Nicole, at the playground (her daughter is just about Luke’s age); and the shaky, but unshakable, way he repeatedly works to free her, regardless of all who oppose it. He loves her. He’ll do anything for her.
So he goes back to the jail. He takes a seat, waiting in front of the glass, the phone to his ear. She picks up the other end, and starts to speak, but he cuts her off.
“Shut up. I don’t care what you say or how you say it. I don’t believe you did it and I never will. I know who you are.”
Is the movie a romance? Sure—in every sense of the word. But in another way, it is very real. The people are always imperfect, often prone to failure, sometimes profane. But the film is like its hero: unremarkable…yet remarkably so. It is about an ordinary guy.