EDITORIAL: Star Trek V at 25


Let’s get something straight right off the bat: Star Trek V is a hot mess. Released 25 years ago today, my anticipation for it could not have been greater. By 1989, I was fully immersed in Trekdom, consuming all there was to consume: comics, novels, cards, making-of books, and of course, the actual movies and TV episodes.

Have your eggs and tomatoes handy because I’m here to say that Trek V isn’t all bad. Yes, it is far and away the weakest of all the Trek films. I think we can all agree on that. What I am here to say is that despite its flaws (which are legion) there are virtues, and I am guilty of watching The Final Frontier numerous times simply because it stars my beloved Original Cast.

Trek V was a gross miscalculation on almost every level. Trek IV was funny and hugely successful so the mandate was to bring the funny again. Some of the humor works. Some of it is simply juvenile. Going after God. Really? Haven’t we done the Supreme Being thing already guys? God never works. The non-ILM special effects are from hunger and always take me out of the story.

Then there’s the script. I know I recently accused The Undiscovered Country of numerous plot holes and contrivances, but Trek V is littered with them.

In order for the Enterprise to be successfully hijacked all the necessary elements are front-loaded into the story from the get-go: a poorly designed vessel with numerous flaws, a skeleton crew and no experienced commanders in the quadrant. As Jim Kirk sneers to Admiral Bob, “Oh please.” Let’s throw in some transporter malfunctions to ramp up the tension and give Bill Shatner an excuse to ride a horse. Spock has a half-brother? Gene was really pissed about that one.

And just how skeleton is this skeleton crew? St. John Talbot notes that they will bring up the rest of Sybok’s followers once they reach the Enterprise…which immediately warps out of orbit to avoid the Klingons. So the entire complement of the Galileo is enough to overpower the crew? I suppose Sybok is helping the situation by brainwashing the Enterprise crew into joining him one officer at a time. And just what the heck is Sybok doing to them?

The Klingons: would Klaa really bow to Korrd – a put out to pasture disgrace? Shouldn’t Korrd have committed ritual suicide before accepting such a humiliating assignment? In what universe could the Federation, the Klingons and the Romulans put aside their differences to develop a colony in peace and harmony? Obviously it didn’t work out, but the mere premise is ridiculous.

I could go on, but I did promise the film had its virtues, and it does. Was I massively let down by Trek V? I was. I loved TOS and had yet to accept TNG (eventually but not yet). I also knew that the original crew’s days were numbered, and the failure of this film might signify their swan song. And here I was only five years into true fandom.

However, in its own clunky way it captures the heart and soul of Trek, despite its numerous shortcomings. What I truly love about this film, and what I think it nails above all other TOS films, is the wonderful dynamic between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy.


Trek II hinted at it, but for obvious reasons it was absent from Trek III, and Trek IV focused more on the Kirk-Spock relationship. Here we have our three leads interacting, bickering and working in concert in a way they hadn’t since TOS. And for the first time, they try to make sense of what draws them together during the campfire scene, one of my favorites in the film series.

I love the fact that Bill Shatner wanted to explore that dynamic and articulate what that bond was all about. It’s a poignant scene punctuated by some classic McCoy exasperation with Spock. By the way, the novel explains Spock’s seeming “marsh melon” boner as a trick played on him by McCoy, something I wish was in the final film.

I also believe that Kirk’s vision of “dying alone” is fulfilled in Star Trek Generations when he dies without his friends present to save him. I know he’s not literally alone when he passes, but the line is prescient, and while I doubt anyone was thinking about a callback to this moment when Generations rolled around it takes on a deeper meaning when we hear Kirk say it now. Although if memory serves, Shatner referenced it either in Ashes of Eden or The Return.

The film carries through on the promise of the campfire scene as the trio works together to wrest control of the ship from Sybok (an excellent Laurence Luckinbill). We all know Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelley rightly refused to have their characters betray Kirk, and their refusal to do so only endorses what was said around the campfire. They are each other’s family, pure and simple. One could argue that McCoy’s role in Spock’s resurrection only intensified that relationship, but happily for us Spock still annoyed the hell out of him.

Star Trek V was demolished by a string of blockbusters in the summer of 1989 that included Batman, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Ghostbusters 2, and Lethal Weapon 2. It could ill afford to be inferior to Star Trek IV, the only film which possessed the crossover appeal that put it over the $100 million mark. It’s the last Trek film to be released in the summer until Star Trek in 2009.

It’s a safe bet that all concerned knew they had a turkey on their hands. Bill Shatner blames budgetary constraints, rewrites, the 1988 Writer’s Strike and so on for the film’s failure. I have no doubt Harve Bennett and Ralph Winter knew this was a too-ambitious concept doomed to failure, but they were stuck with Shatner as a storyteller. He exercised the “favored nations” clause in his contract which allowed him parity with whatever Leonard Nimoy received, and I can’t imagine anyone in the cast or crew was thrilled at the prospect.

As I said up top, Trek V is a hot mess, a disappointment in almost every regard, and maybe I’m a bit more charitable than most. The mere opportunity to see the TOS cast in action (even a wasted one) meant a great deal to me (and still does). They’re my guys (and gal). The business with “the holy trinity” might not be enough to save the film, but it anchors it. It gives us something positive to focus on (although I have no doubt there are fans who think even that was handled poorly).

I think Bill meant well, but didn’t have the innate understanding of what makes Trek work. He is an amazing, incredible Captain Kirk, but let’s leave him in the captain’s chair, not the director’s chair.

The teaser poster, which promised far more of a ride than it delivered.

Steve also commemorated the 30th Anniversary of Star Trek III:The Search for Spock, which can be found here.

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One of my Favorite Trek Movies! Silly and Fun Space Romp! Also First Star Trek Movie i ve ever saw here in Greece on April 1990!

Star Trek V makes Plan 9 From Outer Space look like friggin’ Citizen Kane!

I can’t be the first person to make this joke, but it needs to be repeated: Probably the reason why seat belts were put in theaters were to stop people from walking OUT of Star Trek V. I tease, but crappy as it might be, its the film that hooked a 10 year old me on trek.

“Yes, it is far and away the weakest of all the Trek films. I think we can all agree on that.”

Think a more recent entry might challenge it for the title.

Trek V was just awful for all the reasons stated, but there were *pieces and flashes* of good stuff here and there, few and far between though they may be.

The opening sequence – the rock climb, the campfire – really weren’t a bad open at all and could have been used as the presage to any better-constructed movie and given an unprecedented homage to Trek newcomers on how the triad relationship between Kirk-Spock-McCoy made the world work. But the rest of the movie was juussstt…..sooooo……baaad that it just fell apart. And sadder still is that the thing plays fractionally better on TV than it ever did in the theaters, but why Paramount was willing to let this beast go on the screen with the most horrendous, amateurish looking SFX escapes me. I guess they knew it was another odd-numbered Trek loser and throwing a pile more money to fix the FX weren’t going to improve its box office.

For all of Harve Bennett’s subsequent vitriol directed toward the JJ Abrams rebootiverse crew, there’s an odd irony of simply throwing the notion of canon in the space toilet with this whole notion of Spock’s brother, excusing it only because canon never said he *didn’t* have one. The Uhura-Scotty business was just forced and uncomfortable.

The few-and-far moments included the horse/fight scene at the encampment, and maybe even the Big Three’s scenes of personal introspection as Sybok revealed their “inner pains”. I could have done without qutie so much profanity (as it, too, seemed almost forced, and I recall Siskel and Ebert making the same observation).

I’ve seen videos and concept sketches about the famed “Rock Monster” Shatner wanted to do, and he may well believe it would have saved the film, but it wouldn’t have. This was a failed notion from the moment pen hit paper, which is really sad. It absolutely destroyed all the wonderful momentum that had been built by the WOK/SFS/TVH story arc…and to this day, I think Shatner is unapologetic for its failing.


I mostly agree with this assessment. Even though many fans call it the worst Star Trek film, I would call it the second worst. The Motion Picture takes my top spot as worst Trek film.

Even so, Trek V has it’s merits as pointed out.

I’m one of those odd birds who likes “Trek V” a lot more than several of the films. To this day, I think that where it really works is on the small screen; it’s a telefilm writ large.

For all its flaws, though, it offers a couple of things that really get to the soul of Trek, and that none of the other films achieve:

1] Its antagonist is something of a tragic antihero, rather than a scenery-chewing black-hat or an amorphous force. Sybok is caught up in obsession, but he’s not really trying to hurt anyone. He just *believes* so strongly in what he’s doing that he’ll do almost anything to achieve his goal.

2] Its the only Trek film to date in which exploration and discovery are central themes, as encapsulated in the exchange between Kirk and Sybok after the ship traverses the Great Barrier. “Because you, too, must know,” is still one of my favorite lines in all the Trek films. ;)

3] There’s also a lot of humanity in the characters in this film. They’re portrayed more as people and less as super heroes than in several of the films, and I think that actually works.

Unfortunately, the editing is so bad that it often just throws the story pacing totally off, and disrupts what’s happening, which detracts from some of what I saw as positives. Also, a 90-day post-production schedule would have been tough on any VFX house, and Ferren & Associates were not experienced in working with miniatures, a fact which shows up a number of times in the film.

So, for me there’s a lot of good to balance out some of the bad in this film, and in the end, its heart goes a lot farther for me than for others.

I agree that the campfire scene and the general interactions between kirk, spock and McCoy are the only good thing in the movie.

I recently watched a fan edit that attempted to turn this into a one hour episode of the classic series (more or less) edited down to an hour, with some classic soundeffects and music over dubbed… I thought that could make this story work, but nothing makes this movie work. I appreciate William Shatner’s grievances about the troubles while writing and filming, but this is just plain bad. embarrassingly bad.

Visual Chloroform….

Not only the were the SPFX awful, but so were the physical effects. Rocket boots thrusting Spock down to catch Kirk before he hits the ground…really? Also in the same vein, Spock leaves the bottom of the turboshaft to get his gravity boots, then descends ( DESCENDS!!! ) from somewhere ABOVE ( supported by a painfully obvious pole in a butt expanding body cast ) to pick up Kirk and McCoy, who are seen in certain shots to be being lifted by Spock with their feet dangling in mid air. Laws of physics? WHAT laws of physics? These are just a couple of examples of moments that completely destroy any minimal amount of credibility the movie attempted to build up.

The only really good thing about Star Trek V is Jerry Goldsmith’s score. His theme for Kirk’s climb up the mountain ( later heard in more melancholy arrangements during the campfire scene and at the coda ) is simply marvelous.

When I 1st saw it I sooooo disappointed! (high expectations will get U everytime!) The onlt redeeming value was Jerry Goldsmith (That man couldn’t make a “bad” sound-track if he tried) However over the years it has “grown” on me. I watch it everytime it’s on. I blame holes in the story, but I really hold Bran Ferren responsible for the “cheesy” effects (he should’ve NEVER been hired in Hollywood again!) When it’s all said & done even with ALL it’s many flaws, it’s about “friendship & family” . That’s what Star Trek has always mean to me :-)

What’s ironic is that, the movie poster (not the one about the seatbelts) is probably the best poster from the whole film franchise.

Also, I thought “Generations” also came out in the Summer.

Despite the obvious flaws, Star Trek V has one of the best troika scenes in Trek history. The “I need my pain” is one of the most powerful and well written scenes. The Goldsmith score is also magical.

12, He,he i own a litany of Star Trek V Posters – i agree, Theatrical Poster is Phenomenal. Colorful, imaginative, the Enterprises center above kicks a$$!!

Star Trek V is really just a vivid, strange dream of Kirk’s. It makes complete sense, and if you look at it that way, it becomes the most brilliant and profound Trek film… forgetting the fact that it was never “intended” to be this way — as theorized by this great blog post on Trekbbs:


Thank you for this editorial.

Boy oh boy. I used to think this movie sucked. But it didnt. It had some of the best character moments.

I think a lot of people get down on this film more than they would have had Shatner not been writer and director. Shatner seems to understand the relationship between Kirk. Spock & McCoy better than anyone else.

Where Shatner faltered was in some of the things he didnt know as intimately as he does the Kirk/Spock/McCoy characters. For example, Klingons, Romulans etc.

I find the idea of a planet of peace very intriguing. And I can believe it too. I could see some diplomats somewhere trying to negotiate some sort of relationship that the military and politicial leaders dont really want, so to placate the peaceniks they send three ambassadors to this desolate planet. Its the appearance of peace when in reality, its hiding it, pushing it to the back burner. And I can also believe if you were going to do that, that you’d send three people that would be open to it. Almost a banishment. So I bought that too.

But this film almost undermines TUC by showing a softer Klingon and one willing to “save” Kirk. it shows Kirk willing to accept that olive branch. I suppose its not out of the question as Kirk was “friendly” to the Klingons in TUC as duty would require.

If the movie had some capable writers helping Shatner, better SFX and some polish, it would have been great.

Yeah it’s got the most ridiculous plot of any of the movies, but I frankly still find it a LOT more fun and watchable than TMP and Generations.

And it’s a heckuva lot better than many TOS Season 3 episodes as well.

I think you could make the argument that Generations is just as bad…

For all the reasons stated, this was my favorite film because it was the most Star Trek. I liked ST4, but thought it strayed from the formula. A lot of the criticism I’ve heard was from those that didn’t like Star Trek, like the Voyage Home and was expecting a sequel. It wasn’t.
Even the bad stuff was OK. Was there plot holes? Yes, but so didn’t the series. Bad effects? Yep, but so didn’t the series.
I would like to see this film “Remastered” like TOS!
On another note, a friend of mine who didn’t watch Trek has watched them with me over the past year and she grew to be a “trekkie”. After the series, I showed her STV as her experience into the movies, and she loved it. In fact, she liked it better than the Wrath of Khan.

While a lot of people may hate this film, I am one of the few who do like it. The fact that is does concentrate on the 3 friends is what does it for me and I get what Bill Shatner was trying to do with his film. I read the book his daughter wrote and his book and I listened to the DVD comentary to get a better understanding of his vision/film.
Could it have been better? Sure, it could and I have not doubt it would have been had Shatner got what he really needed out of the studio. My feeling is that it is better than “Insurrection”.

Star Trek 5 was a bit of a dissapointment at the time, it didn’t have the epic quality of the other films but underneath it all the film had heart & unlike the other films it spends time exploring the characters & the family themes of Star Trek.
For this reason I watch it more than some of the other films.

As bad as this was, it’s still light years ahead of Star Trek Into Darkness.

The campfire scene is the best thing about ST V, I loved watching these three men relaxing & just having good time together as friends away from all the problems of the universe.

When I walked out of this movie in 1989, and saw the theater manager standing near the concession counter, I literally walked over and apologized (Yeah, too much, but I was young) because I knew he wouldn’t be making much money off this movie. I have to admit, though, that V has grown on me over time. The Kirk, Spock, McCoy stuff is pretty good; Jerry Goldsmith’s music is always stellar (no pun intended); Chekhov, Uhura, Sulu and Scotty have their moments; good character acting. And the bridge scene before they beam down to Sha Ka Ree? reminds me more of TOS than any scene in the Trek movies. Shatner gets some good shots as director, but it’s hard to overcome the FX, which are not up to standard, and the story flaws. It’s just tough to do religion satisfactorily. There is too much humor, much of it forced, and no trek movie should ever, ever, make the Enterprise the butt of jokes. The Enterprise is money on the table. Let it shine. Good uniforms on this outing too; lots of people like the assault phasers. I would have liked the rock men, if they could have pulled it off. And of course you get the “What does God need with a starship?” line, which is vintage Kirk. Who else could ask such a question? For me, this movie holds up more than some others in the series. I think some more money might have helped; Paramount has only been generous on TMP, 2009 and STID.

Oh, I don’t hate any Trek film, I just acknowledge that some are better then others. V and VIII are at the bottom of my list.

Lets not forget Herman Zimmermans beautiful production design & Jerry Goldsmiths Music.
While the bulk of the special effects were minimal & dissapointing I always loved the practical effects including the full sized shuttles & shuttle bay.
However the “Deck 78” joke was unforgivable.

Oops…V and VII, not VIII…

Excuse me, take a shuttle down to Sha Ka Ree.

This was the movie that made me a fan of the franchise, so it will always have a special place in my heart and a sentimental favorite.

As bad as this movie is, there are some incredible scenes. Some great humor with the bantering of McCoy and Spock, as the author notes, but also some heavy poignancy.

The scene with McCoy reliving his father’s death, and his role in it, is just so moving and powerful. “To preserve his dignity.” So true to McCoy, a doctor sworn to heal, yet also a loving son with a dash of his Southern sensibilities. We see the depths of his pain.

It seems to me that most people disliked this movie because they disliked God, or disliked Shatner, one of the two. It has no more plotholes than any other Trek movie, and it has some of the best Kirk/Spock/McCoy moments ever. The campfire scene is a gem (anyone remember the marshmallow machine tie-in?). So is Sybok revealing the secret pain of McCoy and Spock. Speaking of Sybok, isn”t that first scene priceless? Fighting over a plot of land that means nothing. But it’s all the guy had. Did the writer lift that from that weird little cut scene in Hamlet about the Poles and Fortenbras fighting? Good stuff. And the brig scene is one of the funniest in Trek. I remembered seeing that for the first time at my grandfathers house (He had HBO) and thinking this was the greatest movie ever. I know that’s an influence on my thinking – seeing it so young, but I’ve never really heard anyone make a compelling argument of why it’s so bad. How is Sybok searching for God a bad thing? Every sentient life form in the universe could be expected to look for a Creator, since everything in the universe is so diverse and complex, yet so orderly. So, Sybok did, and he stumbled into one of the godlike life forms that the Enterprise tangled with every other week on TOS. The only weak part to me was that I never was quite sure what the Galactic barrier was….Some of the criticism the article makes sounds goofy. Would Klaa bow to Koord? If he personally respected him, yes. Ritual suicide? Well, would the Klingons even HAVE ambassadors then? *LOL* Why is it so surprising that Spock had a half brother? He was born before him, and I don’t know if he was raised with him, but Spock wouldn’t even talk about something the crew NEEDED to know, like pon farr, so why would he talk about his older step brother?

Kev 1 and Alt-Spock: I hear you saying that the movie was bad, but you’re both talking about many of the scenes being great. What exactly made it a bad movie?

The author touched on many of the issues with this movie. Well-worn plot contrivances: “Sorry, the Enterprise is the only ship available” – really? Again? Are all the other ships at some poker game we weren’t invited to? And of course she’s undermanned, “not ready”, etc. Again.

Other plot annoyances like the ease with which Sybok takes control of the ship, getting to the center of the galaxy in a couple of hours, and the inconsistency of this “God” creature is so powerful yet is a terrible shot and can be subdued with a Klingon disruptor blast, etc.

Add substandard SFX, cheap-looking sets, and much of the film comes across as a half-hearted, amateurish production effort.

Is this a Golan-Globus movie?

I saw this movie when I was 12. I was so excited I was shaking. However, as soon as the film began, I got a really sick feeling my stomach. Something just didn’t “feel” right about it. By the time the film got to the “planet of galactic peace” I really had a bad feeling. Still, I sat there, and gave the movie time. Maybe it was just slow getting started? Maybe it would get better….

By the time the film got the Enterprise I knew something was seriously wrong. The Scotty and Uhura interaction was really awkward and the ship “being in pieces” was not humorous at all.

However, I gave it a chance.

It all came crashing down for me when Kirk, Spock and McCoy were climbing the ladder in the turboshaft. I leaned over to my dad, who had graciously taken me to see this movie because I had bothered him all week and said, “I hate to say it, but I don’t think this is good”.

We both sat there and watched the film, trying our best to be good sports, but in the end there was no denying it: this film was awful. I was dumbstruck. How did this film get made?

I tried to like this film (much the same way that I would try to like Generations five years later), but it is a bad film.

If Golan-Globus ever made a Star Trek movie, this would be it. The story is an incoherent mess and the production values are beyond flawed. Shatner gets a lot of the blame, and he deserves some a good bit of that blame. However, Paramount should’ve known better.

13 – Generations opened in November.

Oh, and… our friends surviving a photon torpedo blast just a few feet away.

I actually put this one above several other Trek films. Nemesis gets my vote for the very worst Trek film, followed closely by Insurrection, and Into Darkness.

I loved the bookends with the trinity — it’s was exciting to see them hanging out as friends. I also loved the message, “I need my pain” — in the era, there were a lot of self-help books promoting psychobabble encouraging people to overcome (i.e. ignore) the pain in their lives. That’s what Sybock represents, and Kirk’s rejection of his message is a cultural critique.

I readily admit the search for God was ill-conceived (even if it was an original Great Bird concept), and there was absolutely no reason for Spock to have a secret half-brother. The disco Klingons were stomach-turning, and the special effects were inexcusable (no, really, unable to be excused). Uhura’s fan dance was just awkward and uncomfortable.

32: I try to be positive; I mentioned the FX; the barrier and model work, particularly; Enterprise sets – especially the turbo shaft — TNG did that better in “Disaster”; silly stuff — Chekhov blowing on his communicator to simulate bad weather?: Starfleet seemed very disorganized in this movie, not just Enterprise, there just didn’t seem to be any direction; Kirk fighting “Catwoman” – Caitian?; Maybe if they investigated some force manipulating minds and found out “god” was doing it, it might have been better. It just looked like a TV movie in places, which makes it hard to judge it objectively.

“direction” meaning Starfleet.

I hate the “only ship available” stuff. Nimoy handled this much better in TUC – “they’ll think twice about messing with the Enterprise with James Kirk in command”. Exactly.

People expecting a sequel more in tune with TVH, Im glad they were disappointed. Shatner got back to TREK with V whereas someone else might have gone in the direction of TVH and we’d have had nothing but Star Trek parodies with the original cast. I love TVH and it was a great cap to the trilogy but I couldnt stand Trek as comedy more than that. As it is, the modern films were too heavy handed in their humour. WAY TOO MUCH so in fact

35. Alt-Spock – June 9, 2014

Thanks, that gives me a better understanding!

I just had my first “I feel old” moment when I realized that I remember this movie being in the theaters like it was yesterday … 25, wow!

I absolutely love the opening scenes between the Three (even though the ‘Row, Row, Row Your Boat’ bit is overdone). After that, stop the tape, nothing to see here.

This was the only Star Trek movie I didn’t like. I even thought Nemesis was good, but Final Frontier was awful.

As for the complaint in the article about the concept of the Federation, Klingons & Romulans having a colony together being absurd: They seem to get along well in the Star Trek Online game… enough to run a joint mission on a Dyson Sphere together…also: the colony failed not because of who was part of the effort, but rather who went to the colony (as St. John Talbot said ‘the dregs of the galaxy’) as well as the planet they chose. Had they chosen a beautiful nondesert planet with plenty of water and natural resources and populated it with, idk, people who’d be in actual colonies of each power, respectable people, ‘The Planet of Galactic Peace’ might have been a success…that is until the Chang Conspiracy would’ve effed things up lol.

It is not that the ENTERPRISE was the only ship available.

I beleive that the line Admiral Bob (Harve Bennett) had “…other ships (available), but no expirenced commanders. I need Jim Kirk.”

I was gutted that the film sucked so bad – after The Voyage Home it appeared that Star Trek might attract a wider audience (and get some respect) – much the same thought occurred to me when there was all the hype for Generations.

Never mind though…20 years after this travesty we got the 2009 movie that finally brought Star Trek back to the mainstream again. Finally, for the first time since TMP – we were given a film that was an epic adventure.

I know people here bashed the Abrams movies (even though we’re discussing the ego-trip that was STV), but I can remember all the Trekkies – like the one that wrote this review, who hated TNG. Then the same thing happened with DS9 as people said it was too dark.

Star Trek V works as a spiritual successor to the fun episodes of TOS, which most fans of Trek have come to hate because it makes them “kewl” and “hip” and “edgy.”

It’s not a perfect movie by far and it has a lot going against it behind and in front of the camera, not to mention the HUGE competition that summer 89 brought. I remember that summer well, because I was 12 and all there was to do was hit the theater: Batman, T2, Rocketeer, Last Crusade, and Star Trek 5.

It’s become fashionable to despise this film despite the fact that it has the heart of Star Trek, which can in fact be and SHOULD be fun. Not “fun” like stupid, juvenile humor in JJDrek 1 and 2, but the humor that comes from the spirit of adventure and friendship at the heart of the TOS stories.

A far worse film is Nemesis, followed by the two JJDrek films.

Goldsmith’s score is also beautiful; I remain haunted to this dayby the theme we hear as Kirk climbs El Capitain.

You can hate TFF all you like, but try to watch it without the large poles of “grimdark” and “social relevance” and “importance” up your asses, and you might find that you enjoyed yourself and were even inspired by the camaraderie of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. That’s the heart of the film, and it works beautifully despite the stuff that surrounds it.