3 Stars – Thought Provoking
Everyone has opinions about their parents. Most are based upon information that is borne out of our emotional lives as children, and rarely do we know even a fraction of the full truth about why they are the persons they are.
“The Thing About My Folks” is a male-bonding film between an adult son, Ben Kleinman (Paul Reiser), and his father, Sam (Peter Falk). While trying to make sense of his own relationship with his young children, Ben is confronted with his father who shows up on his doorstep needing a place to stay. Ben’s mother has thrown Sam out of the house.
In Ben’s family world, every time he is confronted with a difficult emotional challenge, he reflects back on what he learned – or didn’t learn – from his own parents. Like most of us, he can easily dismiss his own emotional inabilities on the lack of proper modeling by his mother and father. And so, when Ben is faced with the possibility of his own father moving back into his daily life, he has to face his own opinions of his parents.
The story unfolds as father and son take a road trip – an adult healing and bonding experience filled with funny confrontations that may hit closer to home than most of us would care to admit.
While most of us grow up believing that “the apple fell far from the tree,” the painful reality is that we are deeply patterned after our folks. Ben has spent years complimenting himself on how much more mature he has become as a parent than his own father. What his road trip painfully reveals, and Ben is loathe to admit, is that the two of them are very much alike.
Ben would like to believe that he has grown and become a better father and husband due to his perceived belief that his father has never treated his mother, Muriel (Olympia Dukakis) with love and respect. Painfully, along this journey with his father he comes to a more honest understanding of who his mother is in her relationship with her husband. Fantasies of his parents’ lives slowly give way to the reality that their love for each other has endured and grown more through pain than affection.
It is in this unexpected time spent with his father that Ben comes to a real opinion about his father – that he is human just like everyone else he admires – and that in that humanness there is a person for whom he has a new-found admiration and love.
In addition, Ben comes to realize that he is not a captive of his upbringing, nor is he cursed to repeat old mistakes that his father or mother made. Because of their shared journey, Ben comes home to love his children and wife even more; bringing blessing and memories to the generations that will follow him.
- One of the natural inclinations of most of us is to be very critical of our parents. Are you critical or gracious toward your parents? What caused this?
- The journey to maturity requires an ability to accept ourselves and others. This is especially true with our parents. We must accept them for who they really are. Have you done so? How do you know?
- The generational impact of our behavior has been noted not only in the Bible when Moses explains that “the sins of the fathers effect four generations,” and in psychology where we speak of Multigenerational Transmission Process. What are the sins you received from being a part of your family? How are you making it different for your children and the generations that come after them?