I saw a movie this past week on Netflix that really grabbed my attention. Although I must admit I watched it because of the great actors and actresses in it, I really was glad I got to see the whole film. Its about a boy in High School that lives with his alcoholic mother and struggles to be noticed for his writing talents. Although he dies in the opening of the film( not a spoiler), the greatest point of view shown is the backtracking of events that led up to his death.
I was so amazed by the performance of GLEE star Christopher Colfer, playing Carson Phillips. He struggled through the harsh bullying of peers, in a food chain of wildly dead on characters that portray what high school is really like. Carson was hated by many students, mostly because he was misunderstood and ignored. His parents were split up, leaving him with his crazy mother while his father moved on with a younger woman.
His whole senior year sequence was played out well and very realistic. I was on the edge of my seat to find out what would happen to him and his passionate dreams of becoming a professional writer. What I really connected to was his life at home and struggle to become something more than his parents became. To become free.
I was angered by how his mother treated him constantly but not at all surprised. I could have been the sister he never had. My own mother was much worse, having very few periods of sobriety. My mother struggled with mental illness and other internal problems, treating herself with substances just as the woman in the movie did.
In the film, Carson’s mother had a problem seeing her son succeed because of her own blundered dreams. She was so selfish and reluctant to let her son grow, that she ultimately ruined his future. His chance for survival. It was a hard blow to watch him slowly crash and lose his dreams.
What frustrated me was the message for the audience in the end. Having parents that obviously didn’t care for him like parents should, he was left to care for himself mostly. Much like a real child of an addict, he had to take on the mature role and challenge his mother’s behavior. He was often put in the position to treat his parents as inferior. Each was so involved in their own needs that they neglected his. His mother could not hold a job let alone wake herself up in the morning. She self medicated and forced her son to start on medication for depression. The doctor she was seeing was ignorant and prescription happy, without even considering the mental condition of his patient. He was more concerned with giving out medication than to tackle any problems through intervention and action. This is a representation of how blind doctors and councilors can be to abuse and dysfunctional families. There was no real concern for the side affects attributed from her multiple prescriptions let alone a method for controlling her alcoholism. Basically, the doctor could care less.
Being the only child of two alcoholics, I can relate to many behaviors Carson had. I watched as he struggled with his emotions and had to push himself constantly to succeed. He worked very hard to accomplish all of his goals, though he had OCD tendencies and was some what bossy. His attitude was beyond his peers and he had a clear vision of his future. College. A career. Something with passion and expression. These are emotions that he was unable to express at home. He did not connect with many friends which made it hard for him to get any support. Instead he used blackmail and outsmarted most of the other students. He was conniving for his own benefit but worked his ass off to achieve his vision.
The most heart breaking aspect of Carson’s personality was that he was a loner. He had to be. He was unable to trust other people enough to socialize like his peers. He did not wish to conform. Only to fly free. Far away from his life. That was me. In a nutshell.
I rooted for him all the way until the end of the film. I hoped that the end would have some how altered in order to give him a second chance but it didn’t. His mother ruined his only chance of leaving the small town. I felt the pain as he discovered his mother was behind his declined application to the school of his dreams. I could relate to the lack of support or encouragement from his parents. I appreciated the realness of both of his parents conditions. Each struggled with past issues that carried out most of his adolescent life.
His father was the lesser of two evils, having abandoned the family years earlier only to move on with a new woman. The new woman has a unique perspective in the movie in that she can see the whole picture from the outside looking in. She met Carson’s mother in the beginning of the film only to hate her. Later on she begins to understand why Carson’s mother was the way she was. The relationship between both women helped to show the pattern to which the father was in, with his lack of commitment or compassion. The new woman took pity on Carson’s mother in the end after seeing the fathers true colors.
The triangle between ex wife, new fiance and husband was very realistic and well laid out. At first it seemed that Carson’s parents divorced because of things the wife had done. As it turns out, the father was very neglectful and abandoned his wife and son for his own selfishness. My father and mother quit when I was only a year old. Their drinking and drug habits only worsened as time went on. Both could not face each other and were constantly angry.
As the film portrayed, this is sometimes caused by residual feelings that get in the way of one or the other person moving on with their lives. My own father left me years after my mother only to find a woman with three children, whom he involves himself with.
Its hard not to be angry or feel like you are replaced when being the child in that situation. It happens a lot. People make mistakes and then try to start over. They believe that recreating a new family will make problems or feelings subside. Carson was old enough to not really care about what his father had missed. However, the fiance was able to see how the family had been affected by the shattering divorce. This made her think twice about her engagement ad choice in the father of her unborn child.
Unfortunately, the regret and realizations that take place in the film do not always happen in real life. Carson’s mother feels regret and pain once realizing she has lost her son. She has no control over what has happened and has to live with her actions. At the expense of her sons life, she finally had to face what her actions caused. Carson’s father becomes more of the bad guy at the end when the audience gets to see his true colors. He becomes less relevant in Carson’s life throughout the film, until he is just a complete disappointment.
I was interested in the side story about Carson’s relationship with his grandmother that had Alzheimer’s. I loved how he would visit her and read to her, even when she didn’t remember who he was. He was able to publish his childhood story in his literary magazine for the school. It was a positive twist to the sadness of the movie. I was really hoping to see him “get to fly”. What Carson really represents are the children out in the world with abusive and neglectful parents. Though the film is a comedy, it holds real validation for struggling and abused children.
Having a demise of Carson’s character gives the audience a squashed hope for the success of undesirable children. Children who live daily with alcoholic and addicted parents. Whom have to make their own lunches and pay their own way through life.
I can remember signing my own school trip forms since elementary school. I had to prepare my own food a lot of the time and was mostly ignored. When my parents did want to provide for me, there was always a catch or perk for them. I felt isolated and always struggled to over achieve. I wanted to feel acceptance. Reassurance. I had none at home. It took me a long time to stand up to my own mother. I found that cleaning up her messes was a lot easier than challenging her authority. You should never bite the hand that feeds you. In my case, when I finally bit back, I was abandoned for good.
I wish that more children were brave enough to go to authorities about their abusers. But I know the stress and torment that goes along with having to report it. To worry if you won’t be taken seriously or be sent right back home to your parents is the worst thing imaginable. I was able to report my mother on hree different occasions. All of those times I was sent back home eventually. CPS and the law did not protect me. In fact, my mother was not charged with anything. It took until I was seventeen to take my parents to court. Even then I was given legal permission to never go home again because I had a legal guardian. But my parents paid no fines or any criminal charges. I did not seem to have enough proof. So it was dismissed.
I wish I could inspire children who have been through what I have. I tell my stories openly because they are like old scabs. It helps other people to know they are not alone. They can have a voice. I wish I could be their voice when they don’t have the courage to speak up. The worst feeling in the world was not knowing if I would be safe in my own bed. I never felt at home in my mother’s house. I felt caged. As if I was just kept captive in my room most of my upbringing so my mother would not have to be a parent.
In the film, Carson’s mother did not want to lose him. She seemed to not want to let go if her son even though she did nothing for him. Truth is, she just did not want him to succeed. She could not let her son progress because she never did. She was bitter. Stuck in the mistakes she made, she only wanted her son to pay the same price of losing his dreams. Could it have been in spite? Maybe. Does it make the audience angry? For sure.
What people have to understand about alcoholics is that they are sick. They are not thinking clearly. Or like a responsible person should act. When a child is raised into that type of environment, they do sometimes become a “Carson”. They go into survival mode and advance past their peers out of the necessity to succeed. I know that feeling so deeply. It has made me free. The film does not give justice to those who do succeed. The people who do break free of their old lives and actually become something.
I highly recommend this film to have an alternate ending, though I know it will never happen. I was really rather apauled by how much Carson struggled because it was a lot like looking at myself. I was upset that he did not get to spread his talents out and succeed for his own efforts.
I do not think the film gives a positive message to its viewers about the “undesirables” of society. I am one of those undesirables. A person that was thought to fail. To amount to nothing. To become just like her parents. Addicts. Alcoholics. Crazy. Poor. Unsuccessful. Stuck in a wheel of regret. I truly wonder if that had to be my fate. I refused it. What is stopping others from refusing to follow down the same road?
Is it really that rare to break free?