Last summer, several Beverly locations—from eateries to elementary schools—became movie sets with a local writer overseeing production of a film he described as “‘Sandlot’ meets ‘Good Will Hunting.’”
“Not a Stranger,” originally titled “Old Bob,” was written and produced by Beverly resident Dennis Foley. It will premiere on June 10, 11 and 18 at the Beverly Arts Center at 7:30 p.m.
The first night is sold out, but tickets remain for the other screenings.
Foley, who has written several books and also coaches local youth sports teams, recently shared a copy of his film with The Beverly Review. The film chronicles three local boys who invite a mysterious old man they’ve begun keeping an eye on, Bob Madden, to play baseball with them.
In due time, they discover that Bob has a tragic secret.
The film runs about 90 minutes, and local viewers will enjoy recognizing the settings that Foley chose for the film. Ellie’s Cafe, 10701 S. Hale Ave., appears in the first 30 seconds and appears throughout the film. The play area of Sutherland Elementary School, 10015 S. Leavitt St., is also a common sight.
Viewers will also recognize Janson’s Drive In, 99th Street and Western Avenue, and St. Barnabas Roman Catholic Church at 101st Street and Longwood Drive. Identifying the local sites makes watching the film a lot of fun. And it’s also nice that Foley identified many of the local places by their real name—Ellie’s, for example, is still Ellie’s.
The film also has star power. Bob is played by James Russo, who appeared in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” (1982) and “Django Unchained” (2012).
In this film, Russo is reminiscent of Clint Eastwood, especially Eastwood’s character in “Gran Torino” (2008), where he plays a gruff, unapologetic, politically incorrect senior citizen dealing with unruly juveniles. Russo isn’t quite as intimidating as Eastwood’s character, but with his gravely voice, Bob is short, to the point and not easily approachable.
Russo’s character befriends three boys who are all played by Chicago-area kids who do a fine job.
John Babbo, an Oak Park resident who has appeared on the NBC show “Chicago Fire,” plays Ray, who is battling his own drama with his stepfather, Will, who is played by Keith Kupferer (“Road to Perdition,” “Public Enemies”).
Mesiyah Oduro, of Glenwood, plays Jimmy, who packs a bit of an attitude, and Matt McGuire, who recently graduated from St. Barnabas Elementary School, is Kevin, a quiet, likeable kid.
All three smoothly deliver their lines. Despite the film’s tense mood, the main characters share many lighthearted moments that will elicit laughs. Also impressive is the chemistry among the three boys.
Pete Burns, who appeared in “U.S. Marshals” (1998), does a fine job as a Chicago police detective who irritates viewers as an antagonist of sorts.
Darren Ohle, another Beverly resident, also plays a Chicago police officer, which is his real-life profession.
The film has some long pauses in dialogue that might bother people, and the storyline is familiar. However, the film will intrigue the audience within minutes.
Foley cited “Sandlot” and “Good Will Hunting” in describing his film, and “Dead Poet’s Society” might also come to mind. Not only is Walt Whitman’s “O Captain! My Captain!” referenced, but, like the private school students’ affinity for Robin Williams’ character in that movie, the boys grow to be loyal to Bob, their parents’ wishes be damned.
Adults will fondly recall their younger days while watching the film, remembering when summer’s toughest job was often finding a few friends to get a baseball game together or synchronizing schedules for a trip to the pool.
Although “Not a Stranger” will remind viewers of the fun of dreaming big as a kid, the film reinforces the fact that youngsters also experience emotional turmoil early in life.
Remembering life’s great adventures as a kid always brings a smile to people, and with the local flavor found in “Not a Stranger,” it will be a treat for local residents.
Tickets to the June 11 and 18 shows are $12 for BAC members and $15 for non-members. For tickets, call (773) 445-3838 or visit beverlyartcenter.org.