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It’s difficult to offer a detailed synopsis of “Running for Grace” without making it sound like something adapted from a young adult novel of recent vintage. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, you understand, but this pleasantly well-crafted period drama actually plays more like a throwback to youth-skewing entertainment of an earlier era. Imagine a Troy Donahue-Sandra Dee teen romance of the early ‘60s with an inoffensive undercurrent of social consciousness, and you’ll have a good idea of what to expect from director David L. Cunningham’s thoroughly predictable but lightly enjoyable tale of love and prejudice in 1920s Hawaii.
During this period in the Kona Coffee Belt, the lines between Japanese immigrant laborers and members of the mostly-white power structure are rigidly maintained. Jo (played as a child by Cole Takiue), an orphan of mixed-race lineage, finds himself ostracized by both groups until Doc (Matt Dillon), a white doctor from the mainland, is hired as a physician for workers on the plantation owned by the autocratic — and, yes, you guessed it, racist — Danielson (Nick Boraine).
Doc - Jo - Integrity - Laws - Prevent
Doc unofficially adopts Jo (so-called “racial integrity laws” prevent his officially becoming the boy’s father) and employs him as a long-distance runner to deliver medicine to the coffee pickers. As Joe grows into young adulthood, and the role is assumed by Ryan Potter, Jo takes on additional responsibilities. He feels sufficiently competent to fill in for the absent Doc when Grace (Olivia Ritchie), Danielson’s lovely daughter, conveniently sprains her ankle. A house call sparks a mutual attraction.
Fortunately, Danielson doesn’t notice the budding romance, perhaps because he’s too...
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