This article was originally published on Film Threat (May 8, 2018).
Measure of a Man is a poignant coming of age dramedy that shows how a bullied teen, Bobby Marks (Blake Cooper), grows into a confident young man with the help of a new mentor, Dr. Kahn (Donald Sutherland). Set in the groovy summer of 1976, the film plays into the nostalgia of the era and depicts the summer camp tropes we all expect to see. His journey of self-discovery is relatable, heartbreaking, and inspiring.
Cool kids like Bobby’s older sister, Michelle (Liana Liberato), and local stud, Pete Marino (Luke Benward) find romance. Despite being the camp beefcake, Pete is actually a nice guy who looks out for the kid. He too used to be bullied before his brother beat them up and scared them off. Now his townie tormentor, Willie Rumson (Beau Knapp), has turned Bobby into his new target.
“…a bullied teen…grows into a confident young man with the help of a new mentor…”
Bobby’s parents, Lenore (Judy Greer) and Marty (Luke Wilson), are distracted by their marital troubles. Michelle is wholly preoccupied with her summer fling, and his life-long camp BFF, Joanie (Danielle Rose Russell), is gone for most of the season. Bobby is alone, so he finds a job to pass the time.
Landscaping Dr. Kahn’s estate becomes more than a way to earn some extra cash. His days there teach him about integrity, responsibility, and self-worth. They develop a touching relationship and Bobby becomes his protégé of sorts. Dr. Kahn urges the boy to stand up for himself and schools him on how to earn the respect of others.
“…pull for him, cringe for him, cheer for him…”
Cooper delivers a brave, raw and moving performance. He brings an innocence and wisdom to Bobby. We pull for him, cringe for him, cheer for him and are ultimately happy for him. It is heartwarming to witness how much he has truly grown over the course of the summer.
In many ways, this is the story of an underdog overcoming everyday adversities. The more he learns how to respect himself, the more he gains the respect of those around him…maybe even that of the big bad bully.
Measure of a Man (2018) Directed by Jim Loach. Written by David Scearce (screenplay), Robert Lipsyte (novel). Starring Blake Cooper, Judy Greer, Donald Sutherland, Beau Knapp, and Luke Wilson.
4 out of 5 stars