A semi-retarded man, Karl, got out of the mental hospital because he killed with a sling blade his mom and his mom’s lover, mistaking the heat of their loving making for causing injury to his mom. He found a job at a local lawn-mower repair shop and befriended a 9-year-old boy, who lived with his Mom and the memory of his Dad who committed suicides years prior. Unfortunately, his lonely Mom got hooked up with this violent boyfriend who bestowed terror on the family and Karl, who now lived in their garage.
As a way to for Karl to get the family out of the grip of the boyfriend’s violent streak, he decided one day after being kicked out of the garage to do something about it. He walked in the family house and chopped in half the head of the boyfriend with a lawnmower blade.
I’m not sure if this final action is called for as there are ways to get rid of the bad boyfriend. In those days before the enactment of the tougher domestic violence laws nowadays, it’s probably hard to find an alternative except getting out of the small town once and for all. Of course, for Karl, in his simplistic mind, that was the only way out of the complicated world. He did manage to confront his drunken father and got some of the issues out in the open, including his father’s killing/burying alive of his baby brother.
Billy Bob Thornton’s acting as Karl was fantastic and very believable – better than Dustin Hoffman in the Rain Man. His way of talking in the movie sounded like Yoda in his own simplistic and innocent way. It’s probably hard to understand without the subtitles. John Ritter also acted as a gay, sincere, and helpful friend to the family. The boy performed quite well in his helpless and yet brave role.
Overall, this was a story of several tragedies but heart warming to see how the participants helped one another to cope with them within their circumstances.