09 March, 2009


"Don't be fooled. Teenage boys need as much attention as newborns. Except they need it from their fathers." (page 116)

Have you ever heard the story about the Single Mom, unable to discipline her teenager, who asks the Non-Custodial Dad to have a go at raising the errant youth? "He needs a man to live with," she says. Well, you're going to hear it again.

Except in this case, a serious suspension of disbelief is called for. Instead of the boy moving to Dad's house, in this story, Mom and Dad switch houses. If you think that is far-fetched, stay tuned.

The narrator offers a deal to his wanna-be-dropout. "If you don't want to go to school anymore, then you don't have to." What?! Don't have to work, no rent, you can sleep until the afternoon. But there are a few catches...

"Any drugs and the deal's off." Okay. Also, "I want you to watch three movies a week with me. I pick them. It's the only education you're going to get."

So begins a book for cinema aficionados. And folks in the child-rearing business.

Discussions ensue between the 15-year-old and his film-loving father. Relationships are built around these conversations, relationships that enable exchanges about other topics, other issues.

The growth that comes between a father and a son is a two-way street. In this case, the reader enters the interchange. And what a road to growth it is.

First love is encountered. And first heartbreak. So the Film Club focuses on reels that show real feelings.

Rebounding (or is it rebuilding) relationships follow. So it follows that father and son find movies that explore the aftermath of failure.

Anger issues call for angry movies. The ramifications of a new job can be understood in the introspection of working flicks. Foreign films, hidden treasures, and other themes take their place on the marquee.

A hundred specific movies (with dates) are discussed. The reader may dog-ear the pages as a reminder to visit the library to check out unseen DVDs. Insight into your favorite move, as well as your life, rests in these pages.

This coming of age story is recommended for parents, not for children. Instead, watch a film with your child. It may inspire your own Film Club.
Don Mathis, reviewer, is the editor of The Fourteen Percenter, an international newsletter for noncustodial parents -

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yes, this was an usually sophisticated family. However, that "use no drugs or it's over" stipulation didn't last long. I was put off by the acceptance of the teen's drinking and smoking. Is this a Canadian thing? Where was the slacker getting the money to support these habits? The father's "let me talk you down from your high/hangover" attitude was harder to accept than the civil relationship between the exes. Is it a father/son thing to be so relaxed about such things?
This was almost a last chance effort to get inside his son's head before the son vanished from the nest. Unconventional, yes, but the dad did seem to make some connections. Only time will tell how worthwhile the experiment turns out to be. I just hope the kid doesn't try to drive to Florida!