THREE STARS - Wholesome
The healing power of confronting childhood trauma is wonderfully presented in the Disney film, “The Kid.” As much a parable as a film, director Jon Turtletaub creates a world in which a troubled and superficial man is able to converse with himself at the age of 8. This relationship proves to be healing for both his “inner child” and his “future self.”
Accurately portraying the theories on which depth psychology and “healing of memories prayer” in pastoral counseling are based, Russ Duritz (Bruce Willis at 40 and Spencer Breslin at 8) is a man who has diligently tried to forget his childhood.
Like many who have experienced either dysfunctional parenting, chronic neglect, or acute physical or sexual abuse from a trusted adult, Duritz survived by becoming a highly controlled and controlling person.
In the dangerous world of his childhood in which his father’s rage and grief at the loss of his mother was turned on him at the age of 8, Duritz buried deep within his soul his father’s message that he was responsible for her death. This suppressed message that he was a terminal loser he then superficially covered over by projecting an image of himself that did not fit who he knew himself to be beneath the facade.
This life-long practice at projecting an image became a career for Duritz. He became an “image consultant,” teaching others to project someone they also were not.
Predictably, this solution in his traumatic childhood became a prison in his adult life. Duritz is a lonely, controlling, superficial and empty man.
But then something miraculous occurs.
At first he thinks he is having a nervous breakdown, but when his assistant Janet (Lily Tomlin) also sees the little boy, he realizes that his younger self has physically come to be with him. The process by which he comes to accept himself at 8 and his 8 year-old-self comes to accept himself at 40 is vintage therapy.
When his older self tries to explain to his younger self what he does, he finds it difficult to put into words. But the wisdom of a child says it plainly. He says, “I know what you do, you help people pretend to be someone they are not and then lie about it.”
This honest assessment of his life is only the beginning. Realizing that he grows up to be a lonely, pretending man who neither has a dog nor a girlfriend nor even friends, the younger Duritz proclaims: “I grow up to be a loser.”
When this greatest fear of the child is spoken, the healing begins.
Inexplicably pursued by a beautiful woman named Amy (Emily Mortimer), Duritz loses her in a moment of cynical self-protection. Devastated but unwilling to admit it, Duritz is given the advice that his younger child has not come so much for him to comfort, but for him to learn from. Duritz then sets out to do just that.
In a wonderful outplay of the consequences of facing our true selves and coming to terms with both our unique gifts and shortcomings, Duritz finally finds satisfaction for the longings of his youngest and deepest heart.
Though many adults settle for lives of empty loneliness, unwilling to struggle with the painful places of their souls, this parable is full of the hope that lives can change and dreams can be fulfilled. Though we most often need the help of counselors and pastors to achieve that conversation with our inner selves, the process depicted in “The Kid” is worthy of thoughtful consideration by us all.