Movie Review: 'West of Memphis' -- 4 stars

"West of Memphis"

"West of Memphis" (Credit: "West of Memphis")

West of Memphis
4 stars
Documentary by Amy Berg
Rated R
Opens Tuesday

The acclaimed "Paradise Lost" documentaries told the story of the West Memphis Three, Arkansas teens who were convicted in 1994 of murdering three 8-year-old children and freed in 2011 after entering Alford pleas asserting their innocence.

"West of Memphis" covers the same terrain, beginning with the gruesome night in 1993 when the kids disappeared and bringing us to the present, detailing the flawed case that convicted the three men, pinpointing a more plausible suspect and depicting the grassroots effort to have their wrongful convictions overturned.

But Amy Berg's film -- produced by Damien Echols, one of the former convicts, and Peter Jackson, among others -- is a definitive portrait of this real life travesty of justice. It's an emotional and an intellectual achievement that provides an appropriate sense of the scope of this tragedy and a thoughtful investigative probing of the facts behind it.

Echols, Jessie Misskelley and Jason Baldwin have been released from jail, but there are no winners here. Three families have been robbed of their sons, three men will never get their youths back and the real killer might never be convicted. "West of Memphis" turns on Echols' wife Lorri Davis, another of the movie's producers, and her tireless quest to free her husband from jail. Love, it says, is the only way back from the abyss, the only way to repair these shattered lives. In the wake of Newtown, it's a message that sticks.


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