February 24, 1992 12:00 PM

Lukas Haas, Michael Gross

War is raging across Europe in the fall of 1944. Back in Brooklyn, Sol Silverman (Gross) worriedly pushes Allied and German pins into a map, while his son, Alan (Haas), like the normal 14-year-old that he is, worries over his stickball team.

Alan’s afternoon imitations of Leo Durocher and Pee Wee Reese are interrupted by their upstairs neighbor (Zohra Lampert), who has given refuge to a French-Jewish mother and her daughter, Naomi (Vanessa Zaoui). The young girl, Lampert explains, watched as her father was brutally murdered by the Nazis. Now the girl sits in silence with her doll, shredding paper by the hour. So, Alan is asked, could he maybe give up stickball for a while to get through to Naomi?

Directed by Sterling Van Wagenen, this small, seemingly hand-cut jewel of a film is Radio Days with a moral purpose. Haas at first balks at abandoning his beloved game—which, in the Brooklyn streets, is nothing less than a rite of passage—but reluctantly yields to moral persuasion. Says his father, played with a wistful touch Gross: “Think of yourself as one of the lucky ones.”

The film follows Alan’s tentative, ultimately tender attempts to break through the screen of silence and shredded paper as he comes to understand the enormous difficulty of retrieving a single life from a war that has engulfed millions in flames. (PG)

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