Director Steven Soderbergh made an austere about-face from the vilified Kafka with this lyrical adaptation of A.E. Hotchner's 1973 memoir, recapturing his (previous) high standing with critics and reinforcing his status as a Hollywood outsider. Those who feared after Kafka that Soderbergh was in danger of becoming a mere stylist will find reason to rejoice here: adroitly juggling seasoned professionals with neophyte youngsters, he fully emerges as an actor's director, never sacrificing character detail for visual pyrotechnics. Though the autobiographical hero, Aaron, could have come off as either depression-era martyr or lovable imp, the young Jesse Bradford imbues him with something more elusive: the genuine curiosity of a young boy. Through it all, Soderbergh never errs in his determination to present events from the boy's point of view, and the audience is rewarded with a host of evocative supporting performances, including Spalding Grey's erudite alcoholic Mr. Mungo, a cast-against-type Elizabeth McGovern, and Karen Allen as Aaron's concerned schoolteacher. For their part, Bradford and two of his young co-stars -- Adrien Brody and Lauryn Hill -- would go on to even greater success in Hollywood into the 21st century.