Film Review: ‘Knuckleball’

It’s winter and a boy is unintentionally home alone, but what follows is more in the realm of mortal peril than wacky hijinks in “Knuckleball.” This admirably lean thriller, in which a 12-year-old dumped at grandpa’s during his parents’ vacation ends up fighting for life, doesn’t necessarily hold up to close scrutiny in terms of credibility. Yet while you’re watching, helmer Michael Peterson effectively earns suspension of disbelief with stark atmospherics, solid performances and a persuasive escalation of panic. The Canadian feature is opening on three U.S. screens simultaneous with its digital-formats release.

Henry (Luca Villacis) is by all appearances a typical kid, glued to his video games, not especially happy about being dropped off at a barely remembered relative’s isolated farmhouse while mom (Kathleen Munroe) and dad (Chenier Hundal) head south. It’s even less welcome because grandfather Jacob (Michael Ironside) is a taciturn sort not on good terms with his daughter. But the young family doesn’t seem to have another option — it’s strongly suggested the parents’ “alone time” trip is a last-ditch effort to save their discordant marriage.