Milo is a boy who is bored with life. One day he comes home to find a toll booth in his room. Having nothing better to do, he gets in his toy car and drives through - only to emerge in a world full of adventure.
Many people say this is actually an adult film, and not for children. I don't think so. Some adults appreciate it. They get the message, or think they do, but the book and the film draw primarily from a child's view of life. Most of the author's (Russell Hoban) books are of a dark tone. They ultimately celebrate the triumph of light over darkness but the darkness is there to begin with. Even his simplest children's books such as The Stone Doll of Sister Brute and A Bargain for Frances deal with pain, sorrow, loss and forgiveness. Hoban knew that children live in a world that is much too big for them. To them, everything is a potential source of danger. This film captures the child's experience of life beautifully. The child starts out totally dependent upon the father. They wander through a hostile landscape looking for answers, for meaning. The child is confused and ignorant, and the father, to his great credit, is able to admit that he is too. The father, however, takes the lead and tries to interpret their experiences. They meet others, some helpful, some harmful, and eventually they separate from each other and are able to stand and walk and move through the world as independent partners. Much of what happens is cryptic and it's probably a mistake to look too deeply for meanings. Just remember that essentially it's a story about a child and his father learning to get along in a difficult world, overcoming obstacles and ultimately making a home for themselves and their loved ones. And that's all any child, or adult, really wants.
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