By Scott Weinberg(Original publication date: 3/13/08 -- SXSW Film Festival)
When a movie shows up and takes a clear political stance, I find it's easier to judge its successes and / or shortcomings than when a flick dips a toe into the pool of social commentary and just waggles it around for a few minutes -- which probably explains why I both enjoyed and respected Mark Webber's Explicit Ills, an Altman-esque indie drama that has something to say about poverty, health care, and the importance of basic human kindness.
Brief, honest, and admirably to-the-point, Explicit Ills follows a group of seemingly unrelated South Philadelphia folks who try to lead normal, happy, anonymous lives -- but their station on the lower rung of the income scale means that even the most basic requirements remain frustratingly out-of-reach. (In one key scene, an excellent Rosario Dawson is denied asthma medicine for her sick little boy -- because she cannot afford the $55 price tag.) Alternate plot threads involve a pair of young druggies in love, a mega-clean couple who aim to open a health food store, and a cocky adolescent who (slowly) learns how to treat a lady.