Film Spotlight: The Prophet

A daredevil who likes to climb roofs and take risks, Almitra (Quvenzhané Wallis) is a problem child. She hasn't spoken since her father's death, and the kids tease her because, as they put it, the cat "got her tongue." "It's just us now," her compassionate, even-tempered mother Kamila (Salma Hayek) tells her, explaining that the two of them need to "stick together." It's a poignant moment in The Prophet, a poignant film about love and loss.

An animated film based on Khalil Gibran's famous book, The Prophet chronicles the trials and tribulations of young Almitra, her mother and Mustafa (Liam Neeson), the poet who becomes the spokesperson for the oppressed townspeople. The movie, which opens on Friday at the Cedar Lee Theatre, takes a hard look at adolescence and spins a classic coming-of-age story while putting forth a philosophy for life.

Almitra's life takes a drastic turn one day as she accompanies her mother to check on Mustafa, a deep thinker who lives on the outskirts of town where the military has confined him for the past seven years.

Upon their first meeting, Mustafa reads to the two of them and talks to them about freedom and the meaning of life (he says things like, "even those who limp do not go backward"). When the local sergeant releases him from captivity, he has to leave immediately and go back to his country of origin, leaving Almitra and her mother to clean his apartment where he's kept his various writings. Ultimately, it turns out his freedom comes at a price and there's a confrontation between government and general public that puts his peacekeeping skills to the test.

Perfectly cast as Mustafa, Neeson speaks with the kind of measured manners that suggest Mustafa's poetic sensibilities. Occasionally, the movie tries too hard to be as esoteric as the book. Dream-like sections featuring colorfully animated sequences with illustrations of trees, blades of grass and clouds accompanied by classical and pop music provide background for passages that Neeson reads in a voiceover. These sections disrupt rather than enhance the movie's narrative.