Though the world now knows it was financed by a subsidiary of the Catholic Priests of the Sacred Heart, 1996’s audience award winner at the Sundance Film Festival is actually better than its backers’ Sunday-school intentions would suggest. The engaging (if at times overearnest) story follows a rootless female ex-con (Elliott) who comes to work at a Maine diner, and though writer-director Lee David Zlotoff’s dialogue sometimes lapses into self-infatuation, he sustains a charmed mood. In fact, because Spitfire serves up surprisingly palatable lessons about trust and redemption, it’s good fodder for post-screening ethical discussions with kids — and downright unnerving to suspicious types who’d prefer their moral medicine to taste less like candy. B+

The Spitfire Grill
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