By Doug Brunell | August 18, 2005

There are something like 81,000 Bob Smiths in the US. This is a documentary about seven of them. There’s a photographer, a graphic artist, a professional clown, a junk collector, a yogi, a candidate for sheriff and a jazz musician. As the film progresses we see the traits common to the Smiths (besides the obvious name sharing), what makes them tick and their views on the world. And believe it or not, it’s more fascinating than you could ever imagine.

One thing most of them have in common is a deep spirituality. The obvious exception being the graphic artist, who is an atheist to the point of being fundamentally atheist. (Apparently he’s making up for all those years he believed in God and being as rabid about his disbelief as a televangelist is about his own faith). The photographer never gets too deep into his religion, though, but it’s his view on life that gives the film its humanity.

Bob the photographer is a working class joe who has more smarts and emotion than is good for him. He knows his heritage, and he longs after a crush he had decades ago. He’s afraid to find the woman, however, as he believes the punk girl he loved has become a middle-class housewife and that would ruin his memories. You can say that sounds corny, but when it’s coming from a guy who so vehemently believes this to be true it becomes poignant. I began to hope he’d someday find happiness, but understood he may just grow old alone and become more bitter … and he knows it, too.

Neil Abramson, the man behind this film, knows that sometimes the most interesting things in life are the most ordinary. Whether it’s the wanna-be sheriff reminiscing about his dead son, or the jazz musician discussing racism, these are the stories of real people, and they are compelling because we’ve all experienced similar things.

So this is seven Bob Smiths. Abramson has made me want to find out about the other 80,993.

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