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By Michael Ferraro | June 11, 2006

You can’t help what family you’re born into. Some of us are lucky, living with both parents without chaos or rejection. Others are not so lucky; they are born into homes of drug addiction, domestic violence or even abandonment. There are even a few, like director John Maringouin, who are born into surroundings not easily imaginable. An environment full of psychological troubles, violence, and even attempted murder.

After a 25-year absence, Maringouin finally makes that journey back to his father, Johnny Roe Jr., who is living in Louisiana. Roe Jr. was at one time a prolific painter but is now plagued with a serious medication addiction problem and a conflicting significant other who does nothing but obsess about her own death, instead of work with Johnny to alleviate their dysfunctional situation. Their constant bickering (subtitled so that no word has the chance of being wrongly translated in our own minds) is enough to drive an outsider to insanity. Aside from this and the constant plunge into the pill bottle, Johnny seems a lot less threatening than one could imagine about a father who once tried to kill his kid.

The film begins as Maringouin’s journey back to his father but quickly turns into a hauntingly tragic, and at times comedic, portrait of a couple on the road to destruction. It’s hard to imagine how tough it must have been for Maringouin to throw himself back into this gritty atmosphere only to watch the father he doesn’t really know outside of other peoples’ stories, downright destroy himself.

We rarely see Maringouin on screen, nor do those on camera mention him too often. It’s a documentary, however, comparing it to fiction filmmaking, Running Stumbled plays out like a twisted Cassavetes film. It’s the kind of film that, upon reflection, gets you to consider your own family life. Like Tarnation before it, your reminded that no matter how horrible your childhood may have been, there are always people who may have had it a little worse than you.

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