We saw the movie Super 8 tonight, and it was an appropriate movie to see on Father’s Day eve, especially for someone who experienced the loss of a parent during childhood. The lead character, the protagonist, is Joe Lamb, a young boy, about 14 or 15 years old, whose mother has recently died. He carries around a silver locket that belonged to his late mother. Inside the locket is a baby picture of himself with her. And, without giving away too much of the movie, Joe is also is the one who most relates to the “bad guys” because of his experience of losing his mother, something none of his friends has been through. (The “bad guys”, in this case, are of another world, and they are trying to retaliate against humans who have wronged them.)
And it is this mother-less boy Joe who draws on his own experience from his short young life and says to the big bad guy (a large, angry alien who is trying to kill him) at a pivotal part in the movie: “It’s okay, you don’t have to do this. Bad things happen, and you can still live.” I found it very moving that of all the people in the movie, this is the character who ultimately saves the day by relating to the anger felt by the evil bad guy. Because of the bad things he’d experienced in his life, Joe is able to make a connection with the anger that is motivating the alien to lash out.
Moviemakers love to romanticize the scenario of young people who’ve lost a parent, particularly girls who lose their dads and boys who lose their moms. It makes for a great tragic back-story for characters – the heart-broken girl who must grow up without fatherly love, or the troubled boy who’s heart is hardened by the lack of motherly affection. It adds depth, another dimension and level of sensitivity to the characters.
But this was one of the first movies I remember in which the character’s parent’s death was such a key part of the movie, not just something mentioned in the backstory. The movie did a good job of illustrating the often rocky relationship between the surviving parent and the child or children left behind when a parent dies. Ideally you’d think that the experience of losing a parent (and spouse) would bring the surviving parent and children closer together. But often the surviving parent is so wrapped up in his or her own grief, the child is often left to process grief on their own as well. I really liked how one of the main components of the plot involved the relationship between the boy and his dad, how they grieved separately at first, and initially grew apart from each other. Then by the end of the movie, they came together and finally realized how they needed to lean on one another, support each other, and more openly express their love and affection for each other.
While it made for a great story, it doesn’t usually happen that way in real life, unfortunately. At least, I know it didn’t happen that way for me personally. Then again, we don’t go to movies like Super 8 for reality, we see these types of movies to escape reality. Speaking of reality, the movie also captured life in the 1970s spot on (the movie is set in 1979). It reminded me of a time when I could still be a kid. My dad was alive in 1979, and life was still carefree in my very small world. So, for me, the movie was also a really fun trip back to a happy childhood, before I knew what it was like when your dad dies.
How did your relationship with your surviving parent evolve over time after the death of your parent? Did the event ultimately bring you closer together, or drive you further apart?