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The Independent Critic

Karen Abercrombie, Cameron Arnett, Demond Wilson, Caleb J. Avery, Kamillah Matthews
Pure Flix

 Streaming Review: Eleanor's Bench 
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I don't watch a lot of episodic entertainment, but when I see the name Karen Abercrombie involved it becomes an absolute must-see experience. Fortunately, Abercrombie's latest effort Eleanor's Bench lives up to my high expectations with one of the more compelling and emotionally engaging series to land on Pure Flix. 

Eleanor's Bench premieres on Pure Flix on June 30th for a six-episode season that's sure to please fans of the 2020 movie upon which the series is based along with Abercrombie's many fans. The series centers around a high-class judge (Abercrombie) who returns to her old neighborhood to take care of her recently widowed and ailing father. Upon her return, her eyes are opened to the world she'd left behind of class differences, the consequences of justice on a community, and other cultural factors that often contribute to a "hood rat" staying a "hood rat." 

Eleanor's Bench is the kind of material that Abercrombie can bring vibrantly to life with her beautiful weaving together of gravitas and compassion. Also serving as an executive producer for the series, Abercrombie's here instantly draws you in and makes you keep watching. In this first episode, the foundation is laid for a dramatic series tackling real-life issues with honesty, vulnerability, dignity, and an abundance of faith. 

In this episode, Abercrombie shines as a judge who is willing to challenge boundaries and lay down the law while also displaying a sort of disciplined grace as she tackles head-on the case of Jewel (Kamillah Matthews), a "hood rat" on her third strike and at serious risk of losing her young son, Drayvon (Caleb J. Avery). While these scenes strike familiar notes, this ensemble cast is mighty strong and there's little doubt that Eleanor's Bench quickly becomes one of my favorite series yet on Pure Flix. In addition to Abercrombie, Kamillah Matthews absolutely soars here as the angry and bitter mother who both has reasons to be angry and bitter and is at serious risk of having that anger sabotage her life. Matthews has the widest narrative arc to play here and creates an amazing tapestry of humanity in a less than one hour episode. 

Young Caleb J. Avery also excels as Drayvon, a young man seemingly moving down the road toward making bad choices but also still aware of right and wrong and wanting a different life. It's a great performance that had me looking up his acting credits. 

Among the other key players, both Cameron Arnett and Rebecca Rogers are particularly impressive, though it must be stated that there's not a weak link in this strong ensemble. 

Written and directed by Stephan Schultze, Eleanor's Bench is the latest Affirm Originals production and an absolutely perfect fit for Pure Flix with its grippingly real stories and core of faith, second chances, and grace. I'm always excited when a Karen Abercrombie project crosses my desk and I seriously can't wait to watch the rest of Eleanor's Bench.

Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic