Boasting an ending that largely invalidates everything that came before it, Take charts a grieving mother and death-row inmate’s concurrent stories both on the present day of execution and the earlier day of tragedy. Charles Oliver’s film focuses on Ana (Minnie Driver) as she drives to the prison where Saul (Jeremy Renner) is scheduled for lethal injection, the belongings of her dead son Jesse (Bobby Coleman)—i.e. the baggage of her past—towed in a trailer behind her car. Simultaneously, the narrative concentrates on Saul as he questions the existence of God to a minister. As these events unfold, flashbacks reveal the incidents that preceded Saul’s crime, which, for Ana, involved looking for extra work as a maid (and card dealer) and coping with the news that Jesse needs to be enrolled in a special education program, and, for Saul, included being fired from his job for theft and trying to steal a car to pay off a bookie who plans to kill him.
Director Oliver’s editorial structure, which habitually flip-flops between time periods, starts off a bit bumpy before settling into a comfortable groove, though the writer-director peppers his synchronized tale with too-convenient parallels that push up against affectation. Both Driver and Renner refuse similar phony gestures, embodying their characters with controlled distress, grief and remorse that lends weight to the plot’s slow build to dual climaxes: the crime itself, and the capital punishment. The monumental, lasting impact one action can have on multiple lives resounds through Take.
Yet upon reaching its end point, the film veers off that thematic course, presenting—spoilers herein—a confrontation between mother and murderer that strongly suggests that much of what was originally presented as fact may well have been fictions created by the characters as a means of trying to imagine what the other’s life was like before their paths finally and fatally crossed. The implication of this revelation—confirmed by a text coda—is that true healing and change require understanding between victim and victimizer. Unfortunately, by recasting much of the action as fanciful invention, Oliver’s climactic twist instead merely nullifies any engagement with the characters’ prior plights, not to mention feels somewhat out of place in a story where state-sponsored death will invariably negate any chance for its criminal protagonist’s rehabilitation.