- 1 hr 40 min
In 1986 Promise was released, a touching and heart-wrenching drama about the power of familial bonds and the strength of the human spirit in times of hardship. The film, directed by Glenn Jordan and featuring performances from James Garner, James Woods, and Piper Laurie, was well-received critically and went on to win both an Emmy and a Humanitas Prize.
The story centers around two brothers: Danny (James Woods) and Bob (James Garner). Bob is a successful business owner who lives with his wife and children in California, while Danny is his younger brother who has spent most of his life struggling with mental illness. When Bob discovers that Danny has been living in a mental institution for years, he decides to bring him back to California to live and work with him in hopes of helping him to fully integrate back into society.
The two brothers are vastly different from one another, and their relationship is strained from the start. Danny is mistrustful of Bobâs seemingly perfect life, and the burden of now being responsible for his mentally unstable brother puts a significant strain on Bobâs marriage and family life. However, despite their differences and difficulties, the two brothers share a deep bond that is tested time and again over the course of the film.
As Danny struggles to adjust to life outside of the institution, his mental state continues to deteriorate, leaving both him and Bob feeling helpless and out of control. Meanwhile, Bobâs life begins to unravel as he begins to feel increasingly responsible for Dannyâs condition while also trying to maintain his successful business and relationships with his family.
Throughout the film, themes of familial obligation, sacrifice, and the complexities of mental illness are explored with depth and sensitivity. The performances from the three leads are powerful and affecting, particularly James Woodsâ portrayal of Danny, which earned him an Emmy for best actor.
One of the filmâs most poignant moments comes towards the end when, after a particularly harrowing experience, Bob sits with his wife Edna (played by Piper Laurie) and reflects on the experience of caring for Danny. âWho really saves who?â he asks, and in that moment, the filmâs true message becomes clear. While Danny is often seen as a burden and a problem to be solved, it is the strength of the bond between the two brothers that ultimately saves them both.
Despite its heavy subject matter, Promise is not without its moments of lightness and humor. The dynamic between the two brothers, while sometimes antagonistic, is also marked by moments of genuine affection and understanding. The filmâs depiction of mental illness is also noteworthy for its sensitivity and nuance, refusing to reduce Dannyâs condition to a simplistic stereotype.
Overall, Promise is a poignant and unforgettable drama that explores the power and complexity of familial bonds. With its raw and affecting performances and sensitive exploration of mental illness, it is a film that will stay with viewers long after the credits roll.