"Mission Hill": A Poignant Neighborhood Portrayal


Mission Hill, a film produced and directed by Robert Jones; associate producers David Newhouse and Anne Jones; music produced by Don Wilkins; screenplay by Anne Jones and Robert Jones. Playing at the Sack Cinema, Beacon Hill.

by Jeanne Belovitch

Seventeen-year-old Danny Doyle fits a metal guard over his black leather glove, clenches his fist and smashes through a car window with the force of a crashing 20-foot wave...all for a tape deck that nets him a few lousy bucks from the man at the neighborhood bar.

this is how desperate and restless Danny is to escape the dead end street of his "working class life" and tough urban neighborhood. "I ain't gonna break my ass workin' some flunky job...," he tells his school friend Kevin. Then in another breath, Danny exhibits his sensitivity and love for his mother---who raised the family alone---yearning to buy her a big house, the kind of home she deserves. At another time, he vehemently reprimands his older sister Laura for singing in a neighborhood club:"...It don't look good. Ya know what Ma thinks."

Laura also dreams of leaving the neighborhood to make something of herself, somewhere else. But, Laura has a better chance than her brother of reaching her goals. An aspiring singer, she has potential and works at her talent. Danny doesn't know what he can do; he is on the verge of manhood and is, semmingly, directionless. His short-cut is money.

Boston filmmaker Robover his black leather glove, clenches his fist and smashes through a car window with the force of a crashing 20-foot wave...all for a tape deck that nets him a few lousy bucks from the man at the neighborhood bar. ert Jones demonstrates his directing agility in the development and juxtaposition of Danny and Laura's lives, as they play out both technically and dramatically.

Yet in the film, Jones focuses so intensely on characterization that at times, Mission Hill seems more like a play than a movie. Filmed entirely in and around Boston, it is doubtful that the local scenery---Dover, Northampton and Charles Street stations, the salt and pepper bridge, Charles River, combat zone, the Fenway, and more---will alleviate, een for resident movie goers, the starkness of the film and its matter-of-fact reality.

This plainness is where Mission Hill suffers. But Jones' expertise and former achievements are in hard-hitting contemporary documentaries; and Mission Hill, his first attempt at a feature-length dramatic film, is a new genre for him.

This criticism aside, Mission Hill, in total, is a good film. It brings us intimately in touch with the struggles, pathos, love, and goodness of a "working class neighborhood" family, and the tragic defeat of its eldest son.

Twenty-one-year-old Brian Burke, who grew up in a tough Cambridge housing project, brings insight, sympathy, and a physical intensity to the lead role of Danny. Most prominent of the supporting cast are Alice Barret, who plays Basset.


Source: South End News, Boston, MA; 1983