Because my Father was the greatest Father in the world I always wanted to be a Father, and then I was blessed with the greatest son. Since the two roles in my life; son, when my Dad was alive, and Father now, are so special to me, I'm always enthusiastically interested in any literature regarding the magical union of Father and Son. The author of this book David Gilmour has been among other things the national film critic for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and has written six novels. David was confronted with a personal and family crisis when his fifteen-year-old son Jesse was failing every subject in school. Jesse had no real desire to continue going to school so David had to make a gut wrenching decision... a decision that wasn't discussed in the "Being A Father" manual that you weren't given when your first child was born. David gave Jesse the freedom to quit school with one proviso: he had to watch three movies a week with his Dad, and his Dad chose the movies. Jesse gleefully accepted the deal. What the author wound up receiving was three years of indescribable time together that involved way more than just watching movies. The Father cleverly became a skillful teacher without standing up in the front of a classroom and announcing I am "THE TEACHER!" The teacher he became did not have a set curriculum that you would find in any institution of higher learning. The subject wasn't math, English or history... it was much more important! It was "LIFE". Though the author shared his lifetime love of movies with his son, the movie subjects were picked, and schedules changed, based on the curve balls being thrown at Father and son by a combination of destiny and fate.
This book is lovingly written and the reader shares the travails of a sixteen-year-old dropout with no job, girl problems, and a Father trying to feel his way blindfolded, through a darkened twisting tunnel, in an attempt to come out on the other end with a boy who becomes a man, and a loving Father/son relationship still intact. The tools the Father uses are of course great movies renowned and obscure, ranging from "The Bicycle Thief" to "The Exorcist" to "Scarface" and beyond. He reaches into his past experiences as a movie critic to share inside info with his son, such as when he interviewed Dennis Hopper and asked him who his favorite actor was. "I thought he was going to say Marlon Brando. Everyone says Marlon Brando. But he didn't. he said James Dean. You know what else he said? He said the best piece of acting he'd ever seen in his life was that scene with James Dean (in "Giant") when he takes his leave, he stops by the door, fiddling with a long piece of rope, like he's practicing a rodeo trick... he makes a movement with his hand, like he's sweeping snow off a desk. It's like he's saying "F" you to the business guys."
As important as the education by film, are the situations that force the Father to open up his own past, involving hurt and disappointments with women. As a parent, the reader feels the pain of indecision in a place that only one's child can penetrate to, as the Father decides what to share from his inner vault. The author makes it clear that at this stage of his son's life it's more important to be a Father than a friend. When Jesse starts drinking too much the author turns to literature and tells his son about Malcolm Lowry, a rich boy who leaves England and drinks his way around the world, settling in Mexico and writes a great novel about drinking, "Under The Volcano", and almost drives himself insane in the process. "I told Jesse, to imagine how many young men your age have gotten drunk and looked in the mirror and thought they saw Malcolm Lowry looking back at them. How many young men thought they were doing something more important, more poetic than just getting really smashed. I read Jesse a passage from the novel to show him why. "AND THIS IS HOW I SOMETIMES THINK OF MYSELF, LOWRY WROTE, AS A GREAT EXPLORER WHO HAS DISCOVERED SOME EXTRAORDINARY LAND FROM WHICH HE CAN NEVER RETURN TO GIVE HIS KNOWLEDGE TO THE WORLD: BUT THE NAME OF THIS LAND IS HELL." "Jesus, Jesse said, slumping back into the couch. Do you think he meant it, that he really saw himself that way?" "I do."
From there the senior Gilmour segues to a documentary on "Under The Volcano": "Canadian filmmaker Donald Brittain's description of Lowry's incarceration in a New York insane asylum: "This was no longer the rich bourgeois world where one fell about on soft lawns. Here were things that kept on living despite the fact they were beyond repair." Wow! What a powerful literary lesson from Father to son about not over indulging, without coming across like the Father is the only person seeing these possible horrendous pitfalls. On a family trip to Cuba Jesse gets himself into a bad situation at a bar, and Dad saves the day. And it's time for another lesson from Dad on the streets of life, to add to the lessons from cinema and literature: "There are a couple of inviolate principles in the universe," I said, suddenly chatty (I was delighted to be where we were), One is that you never get anything worth getting from an "A" hole. Two is when a stranger comes toward you with his hand extended, he doesn't want to be your friend."
This terrific memoir may have movies as its home base, but the education and bonding of love between Father and son has no boundaries in this book and in life.