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Digging to China

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Director  Timothy Hutton
Country  United States
7/10 IMDb

Language  English
Digging to China movie poster
Release date  September 11, 1998  United States
Tagline  Two innocent outcasts. One incredible friendship.

Digging to china

Digging to China is a 1998 American drama film that marked the directorial debut of actor Timothy Hutton and the screen debut of Evan Rachel Wood. The screenplay by Karen Janszen focuses on the friendship forged between a precocious pre-teenaged girl with a vivid imagination and a mentally challenged adult male.


Digging to China movie scenes

Harriet, a ten-year old girl, lives together with her big sister and her alcoholic mother out in the countryside. The family runs a motel. Harriet is different from the others, as she owns a great creativity and has nobody to play with. Her infinite world exists only in her mind. One day, Ricky comes along. He is a grown-up, but retarded son of an elderly lady. Soon, Harriet and Ricky share their experiences of life from a different point of view and become close friends. But his mother still plans to give Ricky away into professional care in a home, because she won't live forever to be there for him

Plot synopsis

Set in the mid-1960s, the story centers on ten-year-old Harriet Frankovitz, a lonely outcast who lives with her mother and older sister Gwen in the dilapidated motel with cabins shaped like teepees her mother received as part of her divorce settlement. Harriet has a strong desire to escape her dull existence by means of any one of a number of creative ways - a magic carpet she tries to fly off the roof, on board a flying saucer she anxiously awaits in the schoolyard, through a tunnel she has been digging to China, or by attaching helium-filled balloons to a lawn chair. Mrs. Frankovitz is a bitter alcoholic with a propensity for driving on the wrong side of the road, while promiscuous Gwen entertains a series of men in vacant rooms. Terminally ill Leah Schroth is en route to an institution where she plans to admit her mentally challenged son Ricky when their car breaks down near the motel, and the two stay there while waiting for the vehicle to be repaired. Mrs. Frankovitz is killed in an automobile accident, and Harriet discovers Gwen is her biological mother. The distressed girl and her new friend run away and set up house in an abandoned caboose concealed beneath dense foliage in the woods. When Ricky becomes ill, Harriet is forced to seek medical assistance for him. Once he recovers, his mother sets off with him to complete their interrupted journey, leaving Gwen and Harriet to learn to interact in their new roles of mother and daughter.

Principal cast

  • Evan Rachel Wood as Harriet Frankovitz
  • Kevin Bacon as Ricky Schroth
  • Mary Stuart Masterson as Gwen Frankovitz
  • Marian Seldes as Leah Schroth
  • Cathy Moriarty as Mrs. Frankovitz
  • Critical reception

    In his review in the New York Times, Stephen Holden said the film "doesnt grab at the heartstrings and strum an aggressively mawkish ballad. In fact, it could do with a bit more heart. Part of the problem is Ms. Woods Harriet. The young actress is radiantly photogenic, but her performance is muted and monochromatic ... Without an incandescent performance at its center, Digging to China follows the same path as Harriets balloon escape. It gets stuck in the trees."

    Peter Stack of the San Francisco Chronicle called it a "cloying, superficial story [that] ends up forced and predictable ... Bacons portrayal of Ricky, who is disabled by a nerve disease that contorts his body and face, ranges from adequate to almost touching. But its the desperate, contrived storytelling that makes the film a chore to watch ... [its] saving grace is that its lush and visually attractive."

    In the San Francisco Examiner, Walter Addiego described it as "an uneasy mixture of afterschool special and art-house project" and "well-intentioned but ultimately sentimental" and added, "It nonetheless offers some good performances and nice, low-key observations about the predicament of outsiders ... Considering the material, Hutton should be commended. Theres just enough going on in Digging to China to suggest real directorial talent, and I hope he can build on this foundation."

    Awards and nominations

    Kevin Bacon was named Best Actor at the Giffoni Film Festival, and the film won the Childrens Jury Award at the Chicago International Childrens Film Festival.


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