Towards Another Future, Part 3: New Car Syndrome

Part One

Part Two

You all know it. You’ve never heard of something, or paid much attention to it. Then you acquire it, find out about it, visit it or … whatever … and then you can’t seem to avoid seeing it everywhere. The syndrome is well-known especially with cars  – you’ve never noticed that make of car before, then once you buy one it seems to be in front of you at every set of lights.

I had this experience in relation to the fostering journey the other night whilst engaging in one of my other passions: film-watching. It was one of the films that had been clogging up our hard-disk recorder for a while; we’d missed it at the cinema because I think it was one of those that received little or no release in South Africa. It was The Place Beyond The Pines; a fine, engaging and beautifully shot, emotionally driven crime-drama. Ryan Gosling is a motorbike stunt driver who quits his job when he discovers he has a young son in the town his show has stopped off in. In an attempt to buy his way into the son’s life he falls into a life of crime, which puts him on an intersecting path with a good policeman (Bradley Cooper) attempting to pick his way through a corrupt police department. It’s hard to say much more without significant plot spoilers; but what there is throughout the film is a sometimes effective, sometimes contrived parallel between the two main characters and their families. As the film progresses we move into a kind of territory where the film almost becomes a parable for the idea of sins of fathers being visited on children – and the chilling reality that could represent. It’s never less than involving, though in truth the film loses some impact by over-stretching its point and its running time. As is often the case, less would have meant more.

My ‘new car’ moment side-swiped me somewhere in the film’s later stages, when a relatively minor part of the film’s story evidenced itself as about fostering/adoption. Previously I’d have brushed over it; it’s not a film about fostering and adoption, really. However three important characters are clearly in this territory. When that dawned on me, the rest of the film became refracted through that lens. Was this how all fostered or adopted children grow up? If they’ve come from birth backgrounds that aren’t supportive, are the children unavoidably destined to be affected by the lives of their birth parents? What is the role of the adoptive or fostering parent, then? Are you destined to fail, or can you make any difference?

I’m by nature prone to worry, so I guess it’s inevitable that this line of thought would present itself at some point. On deeper reflection too I’m aware of my wife’s own experience as an adoptive child: loving adoptive homes make a huge difference. There’s always going to be issues, however. Issues of rejection, identity and heritage to name three. The dance between nature and nurture appears to be a complex one indeed.

We’re on this road now, though. Maybe not forever; and we’re not committed to the destination yet. Truth is, we don’t even know what the destination is. It’s comforting, predictable and also a little strange that all these similar looking cars suddenly seemed to have joined us.

I rated this film 7/10 in and 3/5 on

Drive (2011)

Drive is a strange, haunting experience. It tells the story of the unnamed central character, played by Ryan Gosling, a stunt driver by day and getaway driver for hire by night. He falls for next-door neighbour Carey Mulligan, whose husband is soon released from prison and ends up through the husband dragged into a chaotic robbery intended to pay off some protection money.

The whole film has an almost hallucinatory quality to it – a dream-like electronic soundtrack, the strange light and shadows of Los Angeles, a sparse script and (for the first half) the air of something about to happen. That something explodes in the second half of the film; stylised violence complete with wince inducing sound effects and plenty of splatter. That’s not to say the violence is cartoonish. Much the opposite, in fact; it’s real and has consequences. The overall tone of the film is one of slowly building tension, fiercely unwinding as the climax draws nearer. Seeing it originally in the cinema was a claustrophobically immersive experience; seeing it again on DVD it loses some of the raw power and the sense of being plunged into something the only way out of which is to ride it out. It’s by no means for everybody, not only for the violence. Some find the dreamlike state of the film artificial and alienating. If you buy into it, you’ll never look back.

I re-watched this film on DVD at home. I rated it 4/5 on and 7/10 on