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The United States of Leland - Ryan Gosling, Don Cheadle, Chris Klein, Matthew Ryan Hoge

Threat advisory: Under evaluation

Movie propaganda

Crime. Confusion. Compassion. They're all just states of mind.

Fifteen-year-old Leland P Fitzgerald (Ryan Gosling) murders an autistic child and claims that he committed the act out of sadness. The boy is sent to a juvenile facility, where a teacher named Pearl (Don Cheadle) must unravel the mystery behind Leland's murderous act and sadness while dealing with how the tragic killing affects the families of both the victim and the perpetrator.

Theatrical propaganda posters

The United States of Leland image

Target demographic movie keyword propaganda

  • Film drama crime murder autism psychology

Persons of interest

  • Don Cheadle .... Pearl Madison
  • Ryan Gosling .... Leland P Fitzgerald
  • Chris Klein .... Allen Harris
  • Jena Malone .... Becky Pollard
  • Lena Olin .... Marybeth Fitzgerald
  • Kevin Spacey .... Albert T Fitzgerald
  • Michelle Williams .... Julie Pollard
  • Martin Donovan .... Harry Pollard
  • Ann Magnuson .... Karen Pollard
  • Kerry Washington .... Ayesha
  • Sherilyn Fenn .... Mrs Calderon
  • Maria Arcé .... Bethany
  • Michael Pena .... Guillermo
  • Randall Bosley .... Sheriff Donaldson
  • Wesley Jonathan .... Bengal
  • Nick Kokich .... Kevin
  • Alec Medlock .... Young Leland
  • Matthew Ryan Hoge .... Screenwriter
  • Matthew Ryan Hoge .... Director

Cinematic intelligence sources

Intelligence analyst

Special Agent Matti

Theatrical report

*

Media intelligence (DVD)

  • Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Languages: English
  • Picture: Widescreen
  • Special features:
    • Trailers: Theatrical

Security censorship classification

M (Medium level coarse language, medium level violence, drug use, sexual references)

Surveillance time

100 minutes (1:40 hours)

Not for public release in Australia before date

Film: Undated 2004
DVD rental: 23 December 2004
VHS rental: 23 December 2004
DVD retail: 23 March 2005
VHS retail: 23 March 2005

Cinema surveillance images

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Director's statement

While writing The United States of Leland, I was also working as a teacher in the Los Angeles juvenile court system. My first day on the job, I was led down a long hallway to a classroom of minors from KL, the unit reserved for those being held on murder charges. My mind was racing, wondering what to expect - surely these kids had to be something less than human, some kind of monsters. I could not have been more surprised by what I would discover.

My discovery was gradual. One of these "monsters" told a joke that actually made me laugh. Another spoke warmly about how he missed his mother. Another was ecstatic to learn the difference between a noun and a verb. Slowly, I began to forget about the actions that they had committed to end up here. I began to see them for what they were - not monsters, but kids who had made tragic mistakes. Apart from one regrettable action, each of them was a lot like me.

This is the same journey that the audience will take while viewing The United States of Leland. They will be presented with an unthinkable murder. Yet from the beginning, the face of the murderer does not fit. Leland, a frail 16-year-old with vulnerability in his eyes does not seem capable of the act he committed. Over the course of the film, Leland reveals himself to be an insightful, caring young man with a fiercely moral outlook on the world. His fatal flaw is that he feels too much. The audience will, at first, be intrigued by Leland to then sympathising with him; and, hopefully, by the end of the film, they will care for him deeply.

The United States of Leland was not intended to be a brooding, alienating, gritty art film. It deals with dark subject matter, but it is not meant to be a dark film, both literally and figuratively. Rather than painting Leland in blackness and shadows, the emphasis is on brighter colours and warm light. Thematically, Leland is a tragedy, but a tragedy saturated with hope. We did not set out to make a depressing, bleak movie.

What do I hope The United States of Leland is? A lively, emotional, and colourful film about characters struggling to do the right thing, about finding hope in difficult circumstances, about discovering the goodness that is buried in people. This is a film about redemption, about relationships that are forged and mended.

One of the great ironies of life is that often something irrevocably bad reveals the depths of our goodness. Unfortunately, we need look no further than the tragedy of September 11th for evidence - this incident which shocked and terrified the world, also brought out the best in all of us. Our most virtuous selves often remain dormant until something disrupts the fabric of our lives. Leland begins with a tragedy, but its central concern is how that tragedy forces eight people to dramatically re-evaluate their choices, their morality, and their lives. The United States of Leland does not dwell on the bad things that happen to us; instead it explores how these events can inspire us to make tremendously positive changes in our lives.

Thank you for allowing me this introduction. I hope you enjoy The United States of Leland.

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