Watch Sling Blade
When we first meet mentally handicapped Karl Childers (Billy Bob Thornton), the film’s protagonist, he is being released from a mental institution for killing his mother and her boyfriend when he was just a child, an ignominious beginning for a character who becomes a hero. We glean that Karl’s childhood was not a happy one with a promiscuous mother and a brutal father. After his release, Karl wanders around his small southern hometown carrying his only possessions, several books held together by an old-style book strap. Eventually his travels lead him to a dollar store where he meets Frank, a 12-year-old boy who seems to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders. Karl, though simpleminded, is very perceptive about people. He also has a beautiful spirit and a big heart and he and Frank soon become inseparable when Frank’s beleaguered but kind mother, Linda, invites Karl to stay in their garage. Linda and Frank are still grieving the recent death of husband and father and are struggling to cope with Linda’s abusive boyfriend, Doyle. Doyle is a mean drunk who sponges off Linda and is jealous of Frank for the attention she pays him. Everybody wishes she would get away from Doyle for good, especially Vaughan Cunningham, her gay friend and manager at the dollar store. Karl and Frank take to confiding in one another, and Frank admits that his father did not get hit by a train, but committed suicide. When in Karl relates a story of when as a boy he witnessed his parents killing his newborn brother because they didn’t want him, it becomes easy to see why he became imbalanced. Doyle cruelly ridicules both Karl and Frank and soon his abusive behavior escalates culminating in a physical altercation between Frank and him to which Karl is a witness. Believing that Frank and Linda’s lives are at risk, he decides that he must act in order to protect them and in a heroic and self-sacrificing act, he does just that.