Thursday, May 15, 2014

"Just Like the Son": fathering other people's children can tame young men


There are some young men who become “responsible” only when they have others depending on them, even when those charges are other people's children.  I’m not like that, but this idea seems to be the moral message of the 2006 indie film “Just Like the Son”, directed by Morgan J. Freeman (not to be confused with the well known actor). 

20-year-old Daniel (Minnesota-born Mark Webber, whom I think I met when I lived there) is a petty thief doing community service in New York City, and crashing with a friend in the Village.  One day, he is cleaning walls in an elementary school, and the teacher asks him to watch the kids for just a moment.  He intervenes to stop a fight.  Despite the reluctance of the principal and teachers at first, he becomes more involved with the kids, and is invited to read for them.  A couple of times he has responsibility for the class until the official “substitute teacher” arrives.  This is an environment with which I am personally familiar from my own days as a sub (2004-2007). 

Daniel bonds to one particular kid, Boone (Antonio Ortiz).  When Boone doesn’t show up at class, Daniel learns that the kid is in foster care.  Unbelievably, Daniel tries to adopt Boone, and is of course turned down.  Daniel “kidnaps” Boone from the orphanage and takes him cross-country to Dallas, where the boy’s much older sister supposedly lives.  He gets the state wrong; it’s not Texas, but the Fort Dallas area of Miami, so then he drives the boy to Florida.  Along the way, he becomes the perfect dad, talking about responsibility, taking him to sandlot baseball games and county fairs.  The cops, unfortunately, figure out his destination.


Screenwriting teachers will like this film, as it plays on obvious urgency, high stakes, perils, and ironies of characters.  Yet, I don’t like to make “heroes” of petty "criminals" in my own writing, even if I can root for
Jean Valjean your “Miserables” type story. But social conservatives like George Gilder or Rick Santorum will love the message of this movie.  
     
I saw the film from a Netflix DVD rental (Breaking Glass Pictures).  

Picture:  The Park Lane area of North Dallas, TX, where I owned a condo 1980-1981.  

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