As lean and mean as they come, this sharp, emotional thriller is centered on just four characters and a couple of spare locations, and yet it wryly uncoils a surprising number of shocks and layers. An impressive directing debut by screenwriter Alex McAulay (Flower), Don't Tell a Soul is, at its core, a portrait of violence passed down through families. Every character here is a victim, and, ultimately, a perpetrator of violence -- and yet they're all really just looking for love. Joey's relationship with Hamby becomes something of a father-son one, although it constantly shifts between revealing and hiding, threatening and comforting.
Wilson gives the movie's most astute performance; it's almost as if he's playing chess. He makes viewers totally understand why Joey might like him or trust him. And Grazer, who's best known for It, It Chapter Two, and Shazam!, offers another solidly likable turn here. It's hard to take Whitehead as the bully; he's so brutal that it's easy to hate him, but he carries his pain effectively. Starting off with a Jane Austen quote ("What strange creatures brothers are!"), McAulay's filmmaking is snappy but also scruffy, falling back into a lived-in, wintry, dead-leaf look. His script may not entirely, completely hold water, but it certainly feels genuinely unexpected and touching.