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With: Steve James, Stephen Fielding, Tonya Gregory
Written by: n/a
Directed by: Steve James
MPAA Rating: R for language and descriptions of abuse
Running Time: 140
Date: 09/09/2002
IMDB

Stevie (2003)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Big Brother Is Watching

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Could Steve James have possibly made another documentary as good asHoop Dreams? The answer is yes, and he did it by turning inward, totell a painful story about his own life. And just minutes after the filmstarts, that story comes to life on its own.

James was once a member of the "Big Brother" program and was assigned a troubled kid, Stephen Fielding, who needed much more than an occasional visit once a week. James eventually moved on and said goodbye to Stevie, and in the new documentary Stevie he decides to return.

Stevie has grown into a greasy, hairy, 23 year-old country boy with giant spectacles and barely two brain cells to rub together. He's a difficult presence to be around, and it's because of James' own mixture guilt and bravery that he sticks it out; it's through him that we're able to enter this bizarre world that's so far away from our big cities and movie theaters.

Living in rural Illinois, Stevie has a volatile family life. He has a slightly slow but warmly wonderful fiancée, Tonya, and has a strained relationship with his mother. He lives with his step-grandmother, a woman who had a hand in raising him. Above all, as the film begins, Stevie has been charged with sexually assaulting an 8 year-old girl.

Over the course of 140 minutes, James probes into some terrifyingly difficult places in an attempt to discover Stevie's soul as well as his own. (Like Bowling for Columbine it's less a documentary than it is a personal essay.)

At the end, we still have very little idea of what makes Stevie tick, but the film makes us face some hard questions; how much can we help? How much are we expected to help? And what happens if we fail?