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Haven

Paradise Lost

Directed by Frank E. Flowers, Haven, is one of those indelible films that you just can't get out of your head. It's a quiet, unassuming yet powerful film that creeps up on you unknowingly. With the exception of the bit of press it has been receiving because one of its cast members also happens to be a young heartthrob, the movie has none of the standard elements that make Hollywood shine its spotlight upon it. No big budget. No big stars. No big catch. Just good storytelling. So good, Haven might just be one of the biggest sleeper hits of the year.

Like a Quentin Tarantino movie, it weaves various storylines together with the characters only brushing past one another. Unlike one of the iconoclastic director's films, however, there's no schtick. Bill Paxton plays Carl Ridley, a Florida-based businessman who's been stashing his dough on the Cayman Islands -- a territory of the U.K. in the Caribbean that is best known for being a tax haven than a vacation destination -- to avoid paying all his taxes. When the Feds begin crashing down on tax evaders, Ridley and his daughter Pippa (Agnes Bruckner) are forced to flee to the Islands where Ridley seeks out his wayward money manager.

While the Islands have a fascade of wealth and luxury, thanks to the large influx of dirty money sustaining the territory, it has a seedy underbelly which Pippa soon discovers. Drugs and related activities abound on the island along with teenage angst and ennui. And while the death toll is kept down, violence is still writhe, bubbling just under the surface. As can be seen in the storyline between Shy (Orlando Bloom) and Andrea (Zoe Saldana), two star-crossed lovers whose fate has been determined by their social standing; Andrea being the sheltered daughter of a wealthy entrepreneur and Shy being a poor deckhand for one of Andrea's father's companies.

There is a bit of confusion, however, in the way the story unfolds. Haven not only skips from story to story but also from past to present and back around. At one point you find yourself wondering where in the place of the film's timeline you actually are. While he gives you date references to guide you, sometimes they only serve to further confuse. Luckily everything else falls into place.

Haven is a beautiful movie. Flowers, a Cayman Islands native, captures the essence of the place perfectly. That is not to say there are tons of shots of people sunbathing and palm trees swaying in the wind. In fact, there's none of that at all. What you do get is a sense that the characters are not fictional at all but rather real people. Ridley's desperation is palpable. As is the love between Shy and Andrea. The listlessness and askew moral compass of the adolescents and thugs is reminiscent of that in Kids.

Although the cast features a large number of fairly unknown actors, they all do a superb job. Every last one of them. Saldana's performance, along with Bloom's, is among the most powerful. She brings an unforgettable vulnerability to her character. For Bloom, whose acting abilities have been widely criticized and ridiculed, this is his best role -- by far. Perhaps, he should ditch the costumes and stick to smaller roles in smaller movies to hone his skills.

Haven is an indie that's definitely worth skirting the big budget films. If you like good storytelling, intriguing characters and smart direction then this is the movie for you.


Rating: 4 out of 5 stars