The United States Of Leland
Leland Fitzgerald (Ryan Gosling) is a 16-year-old who struggles with the realities of life and has a somewhat intermittent and detached relationship with his father, Albert Fitzgerald (Kevin Spacey). Evidence suggests Leland killed an autistic child out of sympathy, causing unimaginable grief and fracturing the family of the murdered victim. He ends up in a juvenile hall, where he meets teacher Mr. Pearl (Don Cheadle). Intrigued and stirred in his heart by Leland’s crime, Mr. Pearl sets out to discover why Leland committed such a horrific act. Through many discussions about life, people’s mistakes and evil in the world, Mr. Pearl begins to discover the answer. The discovery is shocking and sends him on an introspective journey, which leads him to see life through a new lens.
The film addresses the pain of this world and how people choose to cope with it. It grapples with the sanctity of human life through its depiction of real-life events having to do with euthanasia. Drug use and drinking occurs throughout the film but is depicted as destructive. And there is unfortunately an excessive use of crudities and obscenities that while real to life could have been toned down. The United States of Leland raises good issues for discussion but fails to take a family-friendly approach in telling the story.