The fact poses a big challenge to the film: how should a child molester be portrayed. Although what he has done is inexcusable, it becomes evident as the film progresses that it would have been a miracle if he had not ended up doing something like that.
Neglect is the keyword in Stevie’s life. His mother didn’t want him, forcing him to spend his life trying to win her love, torn between her and his step-grandmother’s internal hatred. Raised by his step-grandmother and at various foster homes and families, being abused himself, the road was paved for a criminal career, which in his case eventually led to abusing his eight-year old niece.
Director Steve James (Hoop Dreams, 1984) has a personal relationship to Stevie, as he was his ‘Big Brother’ from the time Stevie was 11 in 1982 till 1985. He returns in 1995 to see what has become of him – and to shoot a film. He realises that by leaving Stevie in 1985, he is one of the adults who has let Stevie down, and in addition to filming Stevie, he tries to regain his Big Brother role by seeking to influence him.
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