I hated the frustration, the defeat, the cruelty, the hopelessness and the sheer anger I felt towards the cruel father and all those who never lifted at hand to stop him. I will never watch it again, yet I think it is a so called good movie and well worth watching for those who can stomach it and needs a lesson in when not to shut your eyes and when to put your foot down to what is happening in your neighborhood or your own family.
William Dafoe is hauntingly believable as the eccentric, sadistic poor wreck of a man, and you want to smack Julia Roberts for being to slow to move as the mother who should have said stop much earlier in her life, like most mothers of that age. The abused son is characterized very well both in child and adult life.
I might have given the film more stars, and I might have given it less stars, all in all I hated the way the film made me feel, during and after, and if that is what I was meant to feel, the director of the movie got that right - The evening was ruined and the feeling of it hung over the next day also, so if you have a soft heart avoid this movie.
Personally I feel there ought to be just an ounce of happiness or a light in the dark just somewhere, if you have to swallow both physical and emotional abuse.