After 11 years, Lawrence Musgrove (Sean Combs) is out of appeals, condemned to the electric chair. His wife Leticia (Halle Berry) and his son Tyrell (Coronji Calhoun) visit him one last time. Among the prison officers are father and son Hank (Billy Bob Thornton) and Sonny Grotowski (Heath Ledger), who help put Lawrence to death. But the two men are vastly different and tragedy soon tears them apart. Hank resigns from his job and fate thrusts him into Leticia’s life, while she remains ignorant of his previous role. When her son is involved in a car accident, she becomes even more needy and Hank is there to help her out. But can they form a bond in spite of their past?

Pain, grief and guilt cause unlikely connections

Three generations of the Grotowski family have worked as correctional officers on death row at a nearby prison in America's South. Buck (Peter Boyle) is a hard, embittered racist and chauvinist now ravaged by age. Hank (Billy Bob Thornton) has inherited his father`s hard-line attitudes but he's a man with a sense of dignity about his job. The odd man out is Hank's son Sonny, Heath Ledger, who lets the family down when he cops out at the execution of Lawrence Musgrove (Sean Combs). Musgrove's death is presented in gruelling detail, but not before we`ve had a chance to meet his contemptuous wife Leticia (Halle Berry) and overweight son Tyrell (Coronji Calhoun). Circumstances bring Hank and Leticia together, pain, grief and guilt make the connection important.

This is a tough film but a rewarding one, mainly because of the searingly honest performances of both Billy Bob Thornton and Halle Berry. They don't have a lot to say but there's never any doubt about their emotional state in the course of the film. Perhaps you're slightly too aware of the manipulations of plot at times but this story of loss and redemption is very powerful.

The director was Marc Forster who'd previously made the indie film Everything Put Together, with Radha Mitchell, it hasn`t been released here. But his ability to handle tough emotional stories on screen is admirable.