Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A Simple Curve -- Breaking away from Dad


Director: Aubrey Nealon, 2005.

A Simple Curve is a coming of age story. But the person coming of age is no teenager. Rather, Caleb (Kris Lemche) is 27 and still living at home with his ex-hippie dad, Jim (Michael Hogan), his mom having passed away.

Jim is the artistic woodworker, while Caleb is the businessman and junior partner in their carpentry / furniture store. Times are tough and the contracts are either not coming in or are being canceled because of cheaper bids.http://img124.imageshack.us/img124/5665/ss2sy7.png Caleb cannot persuade Jim to do what the customers want at the price they want. Jim wants to discover what is in the wood waiting to be made, regardless of the project. Not really a great way to run a business. And all that is running is their profits -- straight into the red.

When Jim's old friend Matthew (Matt Craven, most recently in Disturbia) arrives in town in his sea-plane to build a lodge resort, Caleb sees opportunity, if he can keep Jim in the dark.

The title is taken from the simple curve at the top of the chair that Matthew asks for as a demo of Jim's work. Initially Jim creates a magnificent work of art, using a compound curve. It is a chair befitting a king, but it is expensive and cannot sustain the cash flow needed in their business or by Matthew in his lodge.

Written and directed by Canadian Nealon, this is his first full-length feature film. With a setting in a small-town community in a mountain valley beside a serene lake, he brings spectacular cinematography of the beautiful Kootenay Rockies in British Columbia.

A Simple Curve is a low-key comedy that is light on laughs. While weak on plot it is strong on character development, with a cast of odd individuals in addition. A pair of present-day new age hippies arrive to set up camp on the front lawn and provide a reflection of the younger Jim (and his wife). A prospective girlfriend Lee (Pascale Hutton), with young kid, allows Caleb to face up to the question of what he really wants. But ultimately it is all about Caleb growing up.

Perhaps the funniest scene is the most unlikely. When Caleb is on his second date with Lee, he finds himself in a restaurant being waited on by one of his former sexual conquests. He then proceeds to tell Lee his entire sexual history, given that most of these conquests are in the same room as they are. Despite the obvious moral issue of sexual promiscuity, this highlights the transparency in Caleb's character. He is not afraid to tell the truth and say what he wants. The problem is does not really know what he wants.

When Lee asks him, later, if he really wants to spend his life in the valley it forces Caleb to face the question of his future. Where he had simply accepted that he would be with his dad in the shop, eking out a living, he now has a new thought in his head. Then when Matthew gives him a piece of advice, that all boys need to tell their dad to get lost (not the exact phrase used, but toned down for this blog), another piece of the puzzle enters his brain. He has never stood up to his dad and pulled away.

Towards the climax, an earlier secret long-buried is shared by Jim with Caleb, a secret that is shocking. This is a secret that is enough to push Caleb over the edge.

Nealon's film posits that boys will only become men when they tell their dads where to go. In doing so, the sons will separate from the dads and find their own independence. But is this necessarily true? And is it biblical?

It is true that for a boy to become a man, independent of his father, he needs to establish his own identity and individuality. But it is surely not true that to make this happen he must swear forcefully at his dad. This would seem to invite separation and a breaking of the relationship, perhaps permanently. Biblically, such separation is not forced upon a boy-man until he takes a woman as his wife, whereupon "a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife" (Gen. 2:24). The new marriage relationship requires the man to be separate from his parents. Finally, the Bible tells us to honor our parents. Paul quotes from the Ten Commandments (Deut. 5:16) in Ephesians 6:2, telling us that there is a promise attached to this. Clearly swearing at our fathers is not a good way to honor them.

We do need to break away from our parents. And for sons, this needs to be from our fathers in particular. I moved 5000 miles away from mine and have established a new family on a different continent. But there is a right way and a wrong way to do this. Nealon's way seems to be the wrong way.

Copyright ©2008, Martin Baggs

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