The Judge: A Film Review

Big city lawyer Hank Palmer returns to his childhood home where his father, the town’s judge, is suspected of murder. Hank sets out to discover the truth and, along the way, reconnects with his estranged family.

Starring Robert Duvall, Robert Downey Jr., Vera Farmiga, and Dax Shepard

“Trust me, nobody wants to go to Carlinville, Indiana, everyone wants to leave.”

Henry ‘Hank’ Palmer (Downey Jr.), the lawyer with a sharp tongue and a quick mind, is the sheep in fox’s clothing from a town full of strangers he recognises all too well. Called away from a case at the last minute, he learns his mother has sadly died. We come to quickly learn that visits back home are few and far between, and that his own young daughter has yet to meet any of the Palmer family.

As Hank makes his way through time back to a place full of ghosts, good and bad, he finds himself expecting something greater than the handshake his father (Duvall), Joseph ‘Judge’ Palmer, offers him.

Surrounded by many people from the small town they live in, and his two brothers, Hank is relegated to his boyhood bedroom, now filled with the “junk” of yesterday, where he vows to return home to Chicago as soon as his mother’s funeral is over.

Embroiled in complex, and confusing family dynamics, Hank finds himself searching for something he didn’t know he was looking for, and inside that is met with the ever strained relationship with his father and the mistakes they each may have made.

The Judge is unexpectedly suspected of murder, apparently having run down a man he once let go with a slap on the wrist, only for said man to go on to commit murder.

Each new piece of the overgrown landscape, decorated with hydrangeas, and bad memories of a father he felt let down by, somehow manages to fill you up with joy, a love like no other, regardless of any conflict, and stings, like a wound so shallow, that only grows deeper until it’s gaping wide with grief, and sadness.

Joseph is riddled with a cancer he won’t get past. Nobody knows, and in that silence he shares with his returning middle son Henry, they begin to loosen the grip on the anger they have for one another, and what comes of it is a care like no other.

The soundtrack to your life, to Hank’s life is peppered with Bon Iver and the beautiful song Holocene, a theme that brings tears throughout, and the odd perfectly placed laugh.


When life cracks open, and we are faced with a loss so great our world no longer makes sense, be sure to love. With full hearts, and tears for days, The Judge helps you remember what it was like to navigate the murky waters of life, to grow, to form lasting relationships that bring passion and a future, and to never ever forget to say I love you.

The Judge is a refreshing step in moving back to a time when films became classics. With excellent direction and wonderful cinematography, the actors blew me away for days as this picture stayed with me, over and over in my mind.

5 stars.

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