“The Film Club”

September 23, 2008 at 6:17 pm | Posted in Memoir, Nonfiction | 1 Comment

The first thing to know about The Film Club is that it is not a novel.  I’m still having a little trouble believing this.

David Gilmour recounts his decision to let his 15-year-old son drop out of school on the condition that the two of them watch three movies a week together, dad’s choice.  The only other rule is that the boy is not to use drugs.

What follows strikes me as a total train wreck.  You can’t look away, though you don’t really want these images burned onto your eyeballs.  The younger Gilmour runs wild and is allowed even to break the two modest rules imposed on him.  The elder spends part of his time unemployed.  This experiment goes on for three years, even as father, son, and reader wonder if they’ve made a hash of things.

Interspersed between the story of this curious father-son relationship are observations on the son’s love life, and bits of discussion of the films they watched.  What’s largely missing, and what I would love to read, are the perspectives of the mother and the current stepmother.  It would be almost impossible to imagine this same story involving a mother and a daughter.

The other point of view that would be interesting is the son’s.  I would be eager to see whether the boy could produce a coherent, readable account of this or any other time in his own life.  That, to me, would be proof of some sort that this experiment succeeded in some way.  We find out too little of his later life circumstances to make a good case.

The Film Club is definitely not a parenting manual.  It’s not really a book about film, either.  What is it then?  As a memoir it might have worked better if it included more insight into the father’s motivations and parenting experiments from younger ages.  Perhaps instead he could have devised a real course of self-study that included, say, books?


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  1. I can’t believe anyone would actually do this with their teenage kid. It sounds so irresponsible.

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