Aaron Paul will forever be known for his standout work as Jesse Pinkman on “Breaking Bad” — and that association will only strengthen with the release of the “El Camino” sequel next week, which picks up Jesse’s story after the series finale.
Not a bad first entry for your career bio. Many an actor would be thrilled to have such a life-defining role.
In the bleak and lean winter-noir thriller “The Parts You Lose,” Paul is once again playing a fugitive on the run, but this guy is darker, more menacing and far less conflicted than Jesse.
He’s the villain, through and through. But in the worldview of a 10-year-old boy who has been kicked around ever since he can remember, the villain becomes an antihero and a father figure.
Even as a sense of doom closes in around their unlikely partnership.
Directed with economic, visually stunning style by Christopher Cantwell (adapting a sparse and sharp screenplay from Darren Lemke), “The Parts You Lose” might remind you of rough-terrain thrillers such as “Winter’s Bone” and “Leave No Trace,” but it also has a theme as old as “Shane” (which had themes a lot older than “Shane”).
Deaf British actor Danny Murphy delivers powerful, authentic and moving work as Wesley, a young deaf boy who is mercilessly taunted at school and usually disappears into his own world when he’s home. Wesley’s overworked, stressed-out mother (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) loves him, and his sister (Charlee Park) tolerates him, but his often-absentee father (Scoot McNairy) has never connected with Wesley, doesn’t know how to communicate with him and frequently loses his temper around the boy.
Paul plays the unnamed fugitive, the only one from a gang of bank robbers who has escaped a heist gone wrong without being captured or killed. Injured, on the run and wanted for crimes including murder, the fugitive winds up in a barn very close to Wesley’s house.
Wesley brings food to the fugitive. He helps him make a connection with a guy who can help the fugitive escape. He even brings his checkers set out to the barn and plays against the fugitive, who growls, “Just cuz you’re deaf, you think I’m gonna let you win. You win when you win.”
Through all the talk, we can see the fugitive has a soft spot for Wesley — and we eventually learn things about the fugitive’s past that would explain why he would feel this way. In the meantime, Wesley’s father begins to suspect Wesley is up to something, which results in some brutal twists and turns.
The always solid Mary Elizabeth Winstead brings heart to the movie as Wesley’s mom, who has not been dealt the hand she’d hoped for but doesn’t have time to complain because she has two young children to care for. McNairy plays Wesley’s father as a guy who isn’t necessarily rotten at heart but is ill-equipped to handle the responsibilities of being a husband and father, especially to a special-needs son.
Paul and young Danny Murphy are terrific together, with Paul playing a wounded bear growling his lines and Murphy delivering a fully realized performance.
And for such a bleak and harsh tale, “The Parts You Lose” finds some rays of light at the end of the night.