Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Film Club - David Gilmour

Awhile back I read a touching memoir called Life, Death & Bialys about a father-son pair who take a baking class together and discover new and wonderful things about their complicated relationship. I was hoping that The Film Club would give me an equally warm-hearted feeling. This is the story of a 16-year boy who just isn't quite cutting it in school. He is bored in class and does not seem motivated to do any of this work. His film loving father decides that maybe letting him drop out of school for a bit will create a long-term solution. But, there's one catch. His son must watch three movies a week with him. The shocked son readily agrees. And so the Film Club begins. I then thought perhaps this would be like a book I read and LOVED a long time ago (courtesy of my Aunty Marji) called The Day I Became an Autodidact by Kendall Hailey - about a teenage girl who homeschools herself with a definite plan to
take control of her own education and learn everything on her own. I so wished I could be her - staying home everyday and just reading and reading and reading and becoming an expert on so many things. I thought perhaps Mr. Gilmour had a similarly structured plan in mind for his son - only with movies instead of books. Alas, I was sorely mistaken. Instead of arranging weeks of films by genre or time period or director - and teaching his son what he could about a given issues - Gilmour appears to pick his films at random. He spouts off a sentence or two about each movie (mostly while his son rolls his eyes or gazes off into the distance) and then he just hits play. Gilmour clearly has a great deal of knowledge about film, and I felt like the book was a vehicle for him to espouse his views on the given films, rather than give the reader any insight into how the films may have affected his son - or creating any meaningful dialogue between the two. In addition to the movie watching, Gilmour spends much of the book focused on his son's pathetic love life. His son shares quite a bit with him about the girls who lead him on and break his heart, but who he can't help being unnaturally obsessed with. And Gilmour offers to him quite possibly the world's worst advice, over and over. The two also seem to drink a lot together, despite his son's young age, including a stint in Cuba where the two order beer after beer. Gilmour is then shocked when his son reveals that he uses drugs (perhaps the persistant malaise, lack of interest in anything, and disastrous personal relationships were not big enough red flags?) - and despite Gilmour's stern warning at the beginning of the book that if he finds out his son is using drugs that The Film Club will stop and his son will be cut off - not surprisingly for a father with no boundaries, the incident is brushed aside and Film Club continues in all its pointless nonsense. Along the way, Gilmour is also proud to include stories about his more than civilized relationship with his ex-wife - who strangely appears to have no objections to this weird "educational" situation. There is no doubt that Gilmour loves his son, but he portrays him in this book as one of the biggest losers of all time. It would be nice in a couple years to include an Afterward (hopefully) showing how The Film Club saved his son from an otherwise dead-end high school career, and how his son is now a successful film maker, or something of the sort. I am a big believer that mainstream high school is certainly not for everyone, and that home-school or self-directed learning is a great option for many kids. But, I still believe a semblance of focus and a plan is necessary for learning to actually take place. This book did nothing to prove me wrong, and I found it a colossal and disturbing disappointment.

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