Brief summary: Karl Childers (Billy Bob Thornton) has been locked up in the Arkansas state psychiatric hospital for the past 15 years, and just got released. He is a bit slow-thinking (everyone in the film accepts that he is retarded), but he’s got a good heart, a large appetite for good french fries, and a completely unique voice. He befriends a young, kind-hearted boy named Frank, on the day of his release. Most people don’t know exactly why Karl was in the state hospital, but he explains the reasons to certain people he comes in contact with, including Frank.
Karl then meets Frank’s mom and her boyfriend Doyle Hargraves (Dwight Yoakam), who is quite obviously a horrible person, and even worse when he’s drunk. Frank can’t stand Doyle, as he constantly makes him nervous. Frank confides in Karl, and talks to him at great length about his thoughts, feelings, and fears. Karl may or may not be smart enough to understand the things Frank vents about, but he always listens and provides advice if and when he can.
About midway through the film, a lot of interesting, intense, and frightening things start to take place. Karl is trying to get through it all the best way he can, and so is Frank. Eventually Karl is offered a place to stay in Frank’s mom’s garage. Together, their friendship grows and starts to become a bit complicated, because of Doyle and his sadistic behavior, physically, and verbally.
Will Frank be able to stand up to Doyle? Will Frank’s mom have enough sense to leave him and his abusive behavior? Where does Karl fit in, with all of this?
I’ve seen Sling Blade god.. probably 200 times. It is an absolute must-see. It won some academy awards, from what I can remember, and rightfully so. I cannot speak highly enough of this film. Some standout scenes that I will NEVER forget as long as I live (even if I had only seen the film once): the post-party scene in the living room, the first lake scene with Frank and Karl, and the last lake scene/conversation between Frank and Karl.
Make this the next movie you see, if you never have. You will not regret it, at all. Make sure you see the theatrical version, NOT the director’s cut (the DC is too damn long and has a lot of useless scenes, including the truck ride during the party).
Just a perfect, perfect movie. Perfect story with absolutely deep and involved character development. The music and scenery are beautiful, too. Do not go through life without seeing this brilliant film at least once.