Little Odessa

Director: James Gray
Screenwriters: James Gray

Institute History

  • 1995 Sundance Film Festival


James Gray’s haunting, elegiac feature-film debut departs from the norm in myriad ways as it depicts a hit man who returns to his old neighborhood and attempts one last time to rebuild his life. The Brighton Beach section of Brooklyn is the setting, one that is austere yet vibrant, a neighborhood which Russian émigrés have repopulated and made their own. Joshua (Tim Roth) is the hit man, disowned by his family, especially his volatile father, portrayed by Maximilian Schell. Yet Joshua yearns to see his mother once again (played marvelously by Vanessa Redgrave), who is suffering from a brain tumor and probably has only a short time to live. Reuben (Edward Furlong) is the teenage son who struggles to find his own way in a family for which the term “dysfunctional” is barely adequate. Worshipful of his older brother, yet wary, he aids Joshua and ends up trapped in webs of emotional turmoil and violence.

On one level a genre film, on another a melodrama, Little Odessa is an exceptional narrative, an emotionally powerful and compelling treatise on death and living death. Distinguished by images and landscape that are absolutely unforgettable and a strong directorial hand, Little Odessa has a visual style and compelling story which will remain with anyone who experiences it.

— Geoffrey Gilmore

Screening Details

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