Sumeet Bal
May 30, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Washington’s directorial debut tells the heartrending true story of Fisher (Luke), a rage-aholic naval enlistee who is forced to confront his traumatic childhood — a tyrannical foster-care mother, sexual molestation, and the death of a best friend — in therapy. Though Washington shines as a tough-love military psychiatrist, Fisher, with a screenplay penned by the title character himself, ultimately belongs to newcomer Luke, who offers an impassioned, Oscar-worthy performance. As a director, Washington sticks with a straightforward narrative and a risk-free, traditional filmmaking style, but he still deserves credit for bringing such a subtle touch to a film that captures the essence of courage.

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