Making the Grades
Mel Gibson fills the role of director, producer, and lead character in this film. He plays Justin McLeod, a recluse living just outside a small community that he visits only to purchase the necessities of life. Because he was disfigured in an accident ten years earlier, the man is the subject of many wild stories and rumours amongst the local residents.
The fire victim manages to live quite quietly until he meets Chuck Norstadt (Nick Stahl). This fatherless young boy, whose mother changes husbands like socks, has only one ambition: Getting into a military school so he can leave his dysfunctional family. But the entrance exam is difficult, and the often-rebellious youth has no support from home. When Chuck learns Justin used to be a teacher, he tries to convince the faceless hermit to become his tutor.
Reluctant at first, the former educator agrees to help, recognising that his lessons extend beyond just Latin and Shakespeare. However Chuck never tells his Mother about the arrangement. When she discovers where he has been spending his time, her fury threatens more than just her son's academic aspirations.
Families should be forewarned that the depiction of the troubled child's foul-mouth (which includes the use of a sexual expletive), puts this film firmly into PG-13 category. It also includes some mature thematic elements, such as accusations of child abuse.
Yet this is not a skin-deep story. More than a boy without a father, this movie is about a man without a son. With a little tough-love, a relationship of trust and respect begins to develop between the two main characters. There is a great lesson of forgiveness here, as well as a reminder of the dangers of judging on face value, which make The Man Without a Face worthwhile for adults and older teens.