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By John Clapp | November 2, 2008

“The Replacement Child” protagonist Todd Turnball (Travis Quentin Young) returns to his small hometown after a one-year stay in juvenile detention, where he landed after laying a smackdown on his stepdad. His goals are normalcy, restraint and keeping a promise made to his father that he would continue singing in church.

Unfortunately for Todd, he finds out that nothing is how it used to be, and Murphy’s Law has taken a stranglehold on his existence. His ex is pregnant with the baby of her bullying boyfriend. There’s tension wherever he goes, as everyone in the community is clearly cognizant of Todd’s violent past (the church choir rejects him on reputation alone).

Worst of all, his best friend, Michael (Matthew Fahey), is deathly ill, but instead of turning to medicine, the boy’s family insists on prayer and resents Todd’s interference. Finally, Todd is confronted with what he feared most, and he must decide whether Michael’s life is worth literally fighting for.

Beautifully shot and supported by a touching gospel soundtrack, “The Replacement Child” is powerful. The premise develops quickly and reaches the cusp of clichéd, but is reeled in equally fast and revealed to be a thought-provoking look at religion and violence, loyalty and friendship. The climax is predictable, but not disappointing, and both Young and Fahey deliver excellent performances.

Just as importantly, “The Replacement Child” poses questions – big, unwieldy moralistic stuff – that will leave even the hardest to reach viewer scratching his head in consideration.

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