With 1 out of 7, writer/director York Shackleton takes a compelling idea, a teenage runaway getting by on the streets of Portland, and allows it to become the victim of his own artistic impulses. Here is an oversimplified, overwrought, painfully contrived film that’s not only tremendously implausible but also provides no real insight into a very serious and very common problem. The story exists primarily as a vehicle for (1) a soppy teenage romance, and (2) a melodramatic mother/daughter relationship. Given the harsh realities of running away, which by now have been fairly well-documented in movies, documentaries, TV specials, and countless news reports, it’s really a shame that Shackleton couldn’t muster up a plot that was even halfway believable.
We follow approximately three months in the life of Lexi (Laura Ramsey), who runs away from her home in Seattle after once again coming to blows with her overly strict mother (Theresa Russell). This time, it was over a small stash of pot. She’s initially picked up by her friend, Tasha (Kelly Kruger). They both drive down into Portland, at which point Tasha makes contact with her drug dealer and gets high by shooting up on heroin. Lexi, highly susceptible to the peer pressure dished out by a group of teenager stoners, smokes more pot and downs a Xanax with some beer. She wakes up the next morning, only to discover that Tasha has abandoned her. With no ride and barely any money, she’s forced to wander the streets, where she’s just another face in a depressing crowd of homeless youth druggies.
In due time, she meets Eric (Toby Hemingway), another homeless teenage runaway. Despite the fact that he’s obviously a heroin junkie and a completely untrustworthy person, Shackleton initially portrays him as a street-smart free spirit with a heart of gold – less of a hopeless drug addict and more of a shiftless bohemian. Over the next several days, as they grow closer, he will show her his special hiding place by the river, invite her to his home in an abandoned factory warehouse, show here the proper way to draw a cardboard sign that asks passersby for money, and smoke a lot of cigarettes. It will eventually come to the point where they make love on his mattress, surrounded by the warm and romantic glow of candlelight. Strange, that they could afford to buy candles with what little they get from days of begging. You’d think they would spend their earning on something practical, like, say, food.
Isn’t it funny how an addict like Eric can go for days without ever once shooting up, only to badly need a fix the morning after they have sex? Isn’t it funnier still that Lexi wouldn’t know about his addiction until the day he tells her he needs to go up north to make money? The upshot, of course, is that their one night of passion results in Lexi getting pregnant, and Eric, being at the mercy of the plot, is made to abandon Lexi before she has a chance to discover it. Hope comes in the form of a woman named Devon (Vivica A. Fox), who, for very personal reasons, is compelled to help Lexi. I will not reveal what those reasons are. I will say that her justification is questionable, especially since there are plenty of other teenage girls on the streets of Portland who are in the exact same position Lexi is in and equally as deserving of a helping hand.
Meanwhile, back in Seattle, we’re shown exactly one scene in which Lexi’s mother desperately calls Tasha and demands to know her daughter’s whereabouts. Later one, we’re shown a shot of the mother sitting tearfully in Lexi’s room, now enshrined. Never once do we see her take the extra step and call the police, or at the very least file a missing person report. The intent is obvious and, to an extent, admirable: Shackleton wants the audience to see that, despite the mistakes she has made, the mother is by and large a decent single parent who does genuinely care about Lexi’s safety. I might have bought into this character had she not been developed solely on overused clichés, not the least of which is an establishing scene in which she angrily drags Lexi by the hair down the hallway.
The final scene has all the expected emotional climaxes. Not so expected is the hurried, haphazard way in which the climaxes are presented. Devon is not given a proper goodbye scene, despite having taken Lexi into her home; she’s merely there in one scene and gone the next. And what of Lexi’s baby? Did Shackleton honestly believe that a quick voiceover narration two seconds before the end credits would adequately satisfy the audience’s curiosity? Why not go all out and give us the obligatory birthing scene in a hospital? That he was sincere in his efforts, I have absolutely no doubt. Unfortunately, sincerity doesn’t automatically equate to talent. 1 out of 7 is a tragically mismanaged film, one that should have been much more heartfelt and convincing than it was allowed to be.
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