The Journey of August King

on November 10, 1995 by Ed Scheid
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   This engrossing film about a man who unexpectedly risks everything to help someone who'd only recently been a stranger opens in 1815, with August King ("Rush's" Jason Patric) returning home from market. His wife and child are dead. Into his life crashes Annalees ("Jefferson in Paris'" Thandie Newton), a young female slave escaped from wealthy landowner Olaf Singletary (Larry Drake, in a complex turn far different than his kind-hearted Benny on TV's "L.A. Law"). Olaf cries from emotional pain at the loss of his house slave, but he still considers her one of his possessions and demands that she be found and returned "unsullied." After directing her to head north, August decides to help her, placing his own property in jeopardy so that Annalees won't again become someone else's.
   Patric and Newton give subtle performances that incrementally reveal their characters' developing bond. In a particularly effective scene, August massages Annalees' wounded back but then stops, not wanting to take his growing attraction further. Newton gives Annalees a compelling forcefulness in showing her determination to be free and keep Olaf from "taking her soul." Co-producer Sam Waterston has a small part as a sympathetic neighbor.
   Cinematographer Slawomir Idziak (Kieslowski's "Blue") provides a wealth of striking natural images, and John Ehle's adaptation of his 1971 novel is simple but strong. The direction by John Duigan, ("Sirens") while emphasizing the harshness of the slave's world, never losing its intimate focus on August and Annalees. Starring Jason Patric, Thandie Newton, Larry Drake and Sam Waterston. Directed by John Duigan. Written by John Ehle. Produced by Nick Wechsler, Keith Addis and Sam Waterston. A Miramax release. Drama. Not yet rated. Running time: 95 min
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