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By Don R. Lewis | June 10, 2007

Young Owen Norris (Lenz) is a middle-school scholar who, rather than have friends and fun, would rather stick his nose in his summer reading or peruse the local newspaper to stay abreast of the issues. After winning a merit of excellence award presented to him by congressman Lawrence Connor (Weber) an unlikely friendship is struck up between them. Connor is slipping in the polls and Owen is a bright kid who knows the issues so Connor decides to bring the young man into his campaign to help drive home the point that he “cares about the children.” We soon realize Owen is in way, way over his head when it comes to how politics really work. Come to think of it, he’s in over his head when it comes to how life works and that’s a nice dichotomy. Can the altruistic and naïve Owen stay true to what he believes ot will he succumb to the power and greed of politics?

It’s really pretty startling that a work of such insight and maturity was written and directed by Luke Eberl who isn’t even 21 years old. “Choose Connor” has much going on both on the surface and under and Eberl’s a confident director who allows both areas to grow and breathe on their own. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there’s an overall feeling of creepiness to the whole film. As things play out onscreen, they do become downright creepy, but way before that there’s a sense that at any minute, the phony congressman Connor could snap…or fall apart. I was impressed with the tone of the entire film and Eberl deserves kudos for that.

Owen also strikes up an unlikely friendship with Connor’s nephew Caleb (Holloway) who is at once charming and aloof. The kid is clearly damaged and expresses as much by creating freaky artwork and terrifying looking puppets. At first Caleb seems like a typical disinterested, arty emo teen but as “Choose Connor” progresses, we see there’s much more to it than that. Alex D. Lenz is really good as the wholesome and principled Owen and you can see him attracted to the power and prestige of high level politics like a moth to the flame. The moral dilemma Owen faces as he becomes more prepped and learned in the world of politics is portrayed perfectly by Linz and it’s a nice emotional tug-of-war. How much does Owen want to be in politics? The more strings he sees and the more freakish the man behind the curtain becomes, we see Owen wants to pull away. But each day he’s back at campaign headquarters glad-handing and posing for pictures.

“Choose Connor” is a movie about growing up and maintaining your principles. The old saying “you got to pick your battles” really fits here. Excellent directing coupled with a smart script and solid acting make “Choose Connor” a movie worth your time. I wouldn’t say there’s any big life lessons being told here, but the story of Owen Norris coming of age in the harsh light of reality is intriguing stuff.

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