After the movie I wondered why I felt upset. Even though Boy is a lot heavier than Eagle v. Shark it’s not that heavy. After a while I decided there were a few things that got to me about the film.
First off the main character, Boy, looks exactly like a boy at school. I spent quite a bit of time sitting in the DP’s office last year with different parts of his whanau trying to sort him out. Those meetings when you try to “get through” to a wayward youth are wasted breath, but, you know, what the hell else are you supposed to do? He was very whakama in the face of recriminations, and found it hard to look anyone in the eye. Gee he has a talent. And a dazzling smile. Could be anything that boy. Full of potential.
That was the second thing. Potential. The characters in the film have a lot of it. Not more than other people, about the same really, but when you look out in the background of the shots they walk through you see a lot of empty space, and roads, and the odd wreck of a building. Lots of potential but maybe not so many opportunities. Still you can dream. That’s what Boy does, and that’s what his Dad did. Dreams, of course, take up time and cost a lot. They can use up the resources of love and trust if they are just talk.
What the hell do you tell the fool in your office who thinks he’s going to be a league star, and keeps getting into fights and telling teachers to f off? You tell them they’ve got potential. Funny word “potential” because it can lead to good and bad things. Your potential might see you scoring the winning breakaway try for the local league club, or doing a runner from the cops.
There’s always other stuff in the background of those kids lives though. The kids who end up in your office time after time. If Boy gets in trouble and you’re the Pakeha calling home then who do you talk to? You might get Nan, and she’d be good I bet. She’d talk to Boy and he’d feel really bad about whatever he’d done for a while. As he got older though Nan would gradually lose her hold on him, and he’d be gone altogether. Well, if Nan didn’t answer the phone you might just get one of the other kids, or you might even fluke it and get Dad one time. He’d be all closed mouth, and grim about it, about getting a call from the school, and you wouldn’t be able to tell if he was going to forget about it all before he’d even hung up, or go and do something quick and brutal to the kid.
There’s this girl in my year group. I won’t bore you with the story about how she’s got potential, but she has. She’s a crack up, and good looking, and really quick on the uptake. She’s in for a detention for… for, what? Was it wagging that time? Anyway, she was tired, and the other person in my office was letting her have it: “Whose fault is it that you’re late? It’s your fault, isn’t it? You’re responsible for you.” That kind of stuff. Sometimes I say the same stuff, so don’t think I’m making out I’m better, because I’m not. Anyway, the girl said, “do you know what I have to do everyday Miss? I have to go and pick up the kids, and I have to make them tea, and I have to put them to bed, and then they won’t go to sleep so I have to put them to bed again, and then I have to get up, and get them ready….” The other person in my office didn’t hear any of this, but I heard it and it made me sad. I wanted to give her a hug.
So when Boy is making all the kids their dinner every night, I feel for him. And what happens when the phone rings, and it’s someone like me on the phone? Can I make a difference on the telephone, calling into the middle of a situation like that? A situation like that is complicated. Whanau Ora is a good idea if it straightens that path out.
And the third thing in the movie that got me was the son’s changing view of his dad. I used to see myself in the role of the kid when I went to a movie like this, but now I see myself in the role of the dad.
When I was a boy watching RTR Countdown I actually thought I was going to be David Lee Roth in hot pink leotards leaping around stage to some mind blowing rock song. I really believed it. Until quite recently, in fact, I more or less had the same dream (a more sedate, less lycra version of the dream, but the same dream). Dreams are good when you’re eleven. Not so much later on. Later on they can make you ridiculous. I wonder at what age my daughter will realise that I am ridiculous?
I’d like to be a better father for her. I have a lot of things I could get better at for her. Then again, being alive is not something you can perfect. I will have to accept a certain amount of failure. And I do want her to know that I’m ridiculous one day, because then she’ll know where she gets it from, all her crazy dreams. May she have many.