William H. Macy stars as Lawrence Newman, who gets a vivid lesson in prejudice in this powerful film. Set in a quiet Brooklyn neighborhood in the 1940’s, the anti-Jewish propaganda of pre-World War Two Germany finds fertile ground across the Atlantic as some of Newman’s neighbors begin to attend racist meetings and talk about expelling the Jewish shop owner on the corner. Lawrence knows its wrong to accuse individuals of things simply because of their race and quickly ends up in the middle of the neighborhood racial conflict since he’s sympathetic to the Jewish shop owner. To make things even more complicated, Lawrence starts getting harassed himself, primarily because his new bride looks Jewish. And even his mother comments that his new glasses make him look Jewish. While his heart is in the right place, fear keeps Lawrence from taking any action, a choice that has potentially devastating consequences.
First-time director Neal Slavin demonstrates a great sense of pacing as he allows tension to slowly build throughout the film and Macy delivers another fine performance. This powerful little film should be a hit in its limited release. As philosopher Edmond Burke once noted, the only thing needed for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing. In a historically true but mistaken thought process, some supposedly Christian characters justify their acts by wrongly blaming all Jews for the crucifixion of Jesus. The opening scene shows a couple kissing, but when the woman tries to stop the man from groping her, he throws her to the ground. Later scenes indicate the woman was raped. However, the major objectionable element is foul language, with God’s name used in vain twice along with four other regular profanities and three moderate crudities. Without the profanity, the messages in FOCUS about prejudice could be shared by older teens and adults.