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I'm going to stay with you for as long as it takes
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A story about dealing with loss, and the simple pleasure of flying paper planes
This is a sweet, simple little film, but with some interesting and thoughtful themes to get your kids thinking a little more about things they see sometimes, but may not really understand.
The biggest of those themes is loss, and the reviewers who don't 'get' Sam Worthingtons character have completely missed this. You don't just 'get over' the loss of your wife five months after her sudden death, everyone has their own way of coming back, and Worthington's character hasn't found that way back when we meet him in the film. He's still lost. And it's his son's understanding of his dads grief that underpins the entire film. It's subtle, but it's the whole driving force of this story. The actual competition that seems to drive the film is actually secondary... but ultimately becomes the catalyst to get the father through his grief and back to 'life'.
My 8yo son picked up on this about halfway through the film, when the father refused to sell the piano - he said 'I know why he can't sell it'. The storyline didn't flesh it out until later, when Dylan told Kimi that his mum had been a piano teacher - and this is another thing the film does; it reveals its layers slowly, and for the most part lets its audience figure things out for themselves.
The messages and lessons for the target audience start almost from the beginning of the film - it will get kids thinking about sportsmanship, peer pressure, role models, friendship, and loss... and it does so with a good dose of laughter and a sublime sense of the ridiculous - always a winner with kids.
Worthington's character didn't really hit his stride until mid film, which was a shame - it left the door open for the less cerebral members of the audience to assume he was just a deadbeat dad, and when those types make that assumption, they'll drop dead before they'll admit to themselves that they were wrong. Not Worthington's fault; the script should have introduced the bereavement earlier than it did.
I also think the connection between Dylan's father and grandfather should have been explored a little more. Ultimately we end up knowing nothing about his father other than that he's shattered by the loss of his wife - that's a given, so why didn't we get a little more about the man himself? I slept on my lounge plenty of times myself in the months following my separation from my wife, but if I were a movie character I'd want my audience to know a bit more about me than that fact.
Tip - have a decent supply of A4 paper on hand for the morning after watching this movie with your kids :)
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