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1993. Directed by Tim Hunter. Written by Lyle Kessler. Cinematography by Frederick Elmes. Music by James Newton Howard. Rated "R" for brief strong language and violence. ****

Matthew is a young schizophrenic and aspiring photographer. Jerry is a Vietnam veteran with shrapnel in his knee who has not seen his wife and two daughters for years. The two men have nothing in common except for the fact that they are homeless. They meet one evening at the Fort Washington Armory, a vicious and dangerous shelter for men in New York City. This begins one of the most thoughtful, heartwarming films I have ever seen. It is a film that will leave you thinking for days, weeks, months after you have seen it about a problem which can strike even the best of us at any given moment.

Matthew had been living in an old hotel and receiving checks from the government. When the hotel is demolished, Matthew's only option is to head to one of the homeless shelters. After being turned away at a family shelter, Matthew ends up at the Fort Washington Armory. While waiting outside for a bed, Matthew notices a black man and begins to snap pictures of him. The man is angered by this until Matthew assures him that his camera has no film. The black man demands to know why Matthew is taking pictures with no film in his camera. Matthew's answer is simple: "I'm a photographer." The black man's reply? "Yeah, I'm the Lone Ranger but I don't got no horse." The black man leads Matthew into the shelter and proceeds to warn Matthew about some of the dangers of homeless life. He instructs Matthew to pin his shoes under the bedposts (so they won't be stolen) and keep his belongings by his side. The man introduces himself as Jerry, and from that night the two men are bonded. Jerry recognizes Matthew's innocence and Matthew sees that Jerry is one of the only men at the shelter who is not threatening.

The next day Matthew follows Jerry to a Wendy's and they get to know eachother more. Jerry tells Matthew that,as a homeless man, he has to be "inconspicuous." He asks about Matthew's "story", which makes Matthew uncomfortable until Jerry tells about his own life. He was a soldier in Vietnam and later when he came back he had a successful business selling produce until he was gambled out of the business by a "partner." Jerry hasn't seen his family in years.

Although hesitant at first, Matthew confesses that he has had four nervous breakdowns between the ages of 17 and 20. He hears voices, and the doctors have labelled him "schizophrenic." Jerry argues that Joan of Arc heard voices too, as did some Biblical figures. "Maybe you ain't schizophrenic," he tells Matthew. "Maybe you're just a saint."

Back at the Fort Washington Armory, Matthew is bullied by a thug called Little Leroy until Jerry comes to his rescue, claiming that Matthew is his "son." A father-son relationship is indeed what Matthew and Jerry have throughout the rest of the film.

Jerry soon teaches Matthew how to earn money by washing the windshields of cars stuck in traffic. Jerry's friend Rosario helps. Drivers usually rewarded the men with a dollar or two, and if they threw in a joke or a friendly one-liner they may even make three dollars. Matthew earns $16.50 on his first day. Later, riding back to the shelter, Jerry proposes a plan. There's a man he knows who may be able to get an apartment for both Jerry and Matthew to live in. All they had to do was raise enough money to make a down payment, then the man would give Jerry an old car called Esmeraldo, which Jerry would use to sell produce, with Matthew's help! The money they earned from selling produce would continue to pay for the apartment. Matthew agrees, and that apartment becomes their goal.

But the Fort Washington Armory is still their current "home" and when Matthew is again bullied by Little Leroy, this time there are knives involved. Jerry and Matthew decide they would rather live on the streets than in the shelter, and their cycle of moving from place to place begins. Jerry has an old truck nearby which makes a fine home for awhile. During the days, they wash windshields and at nighttime are more secure inside the deserted truck than the crowded shelter, despite all of the security guards at the Fort Washington Armory. One night, in one of the film's most touching scenes, Jerry's injured knee is bothering him and Matthew wordlessly begins to massage it, making the knee feel better shortly. Jerry declares Matthew to have "magic hands." The next morning when the men wake up, their truck is being towed away and it's time to move on again.

Jerry's friend Rosario has been living inside an abandoned home with his pregnant girlfriend Tamsen and a friendly, elderly man named Spits. The three welcome Jerry and Matthew and all is well until a tragic accident strikes Tamsen. Tamsen recovers, but she and Rosario have finally bought two tickets to Gavleston like they had been hoping to do, and Matthew and Jerry must find yet another place to live. The streets are their only option. Jerry becomes discouraged at first, but Matthew still has not lost hope and one cold night Jerry realizes that there is no reason for himself to give up hope either. "I save you, you save me," he tells Matthew. "That's the way it's going to be." Just moments later, they run into two policemen who tell them that it is a cold night and ask if they have an address. Jerry replies that they are working on it. This answer is not good enough for the police officers, and although Jerry escapes, Matthew is sent back to the Fort Washington Armory.

I've given away most of the plot, but I won't give away the climax. I'll just say that although The Saint of Fort Washington grossed a "whopping" total of $57,115 in theaters it is available in most cities on video and I urge you to run to your local video store and pick up this overlooked gem RIGHT NOW! It is brilliantly acted (especially by Dillon and Glover), sad at times, gently funny at others, and incredibly realistic. Like the back of the video box says, "it reaches out and touches at your heart and soul like no other movie."

Matt Dillon plays Matthew:

Danny Glover plays Jerry:

Ving Rhames plays Little Leroy:

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Saint of Fort Washington Links

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The Experience of Schizophrenia
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Mr. Independent Film- the Kevin Corrigan page
A Little About Adam Trese
Aida Turturro Info.
Official Black 47 site
Film.Com Review
Roger Ebert Review
My Own Review
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