On the surface this is just another story about an adult helping a disadvantaged child develop his potential. But their meeting is embedded in a social environment that takes its own liberalism and freedom of choice for granted while totally blind to the fact that its prejudices and self-absorption are as apt to destroy a sensitive soul as all the Victorian restrictions of our forefathers put together. Mel Gibson, as a teacher maimed in both body and soul, gives one of his most moving and sensitive performances, both as the main character and the director of the film, while Nick Stahl makes a memorable film-debut as the pre-teen product of a thoroughly dysfunctional family. It is his inner sense of direction, of where he wants his life to go, that ultimately heals both him and his teacher. One unforgettable character among many fine performances, is that of the mother, a perpetual flowerchild aware of the fact that "she was not made for this mothering business." That, in a nutshell, is what gives the story its depth.