“Picking movies for people is a risky business. In a way it’s as revealing as writing someone a letter. It shows how you think, it shows what moves you, sometimes it can even show how you think the world sees you. “
When Jesse Gilmour, fifteen years old, begins falling desperately behind in school, his father, David Gilmour, an unemployed movie critic, takes decisive and unconventional action. Gilmour allows Jesse to drop out of school, not work, and not pay rent, as long as he watches three movies a week with his dad.
Watching the movies not only bonds father and son, but allows open discussions about all things cinematic and all things realistic. Women troubles, love affairs, drugs, friendships, work….nothing is out of bounds. Jesse is educated in a unique way about life, and by the end of the book has found such appreciation for movies that he goes back to get his GED, goes to college and (from an interview I’ll include below) gets accepted to a film program in Prague.
Gilmour took a chance that most of us would have been too afraid to take, and happily it turns out the best for everyone. Thanks to being inconsistently employed, Gilmour has the luxury so many of us don’t have as working parents to spend focused quality time with his son. At an age where most teenagers shun spending time with their parents, Gilmour is able to create a bond with his son through the movies, and keeps the communication lines open about other things going on in Jesse’s life. He definitely has an unconventional relationship with Jesse that I admired greatly. He was not afraid to bare his heart in front of his son, recounting the dramatic and heartbreaking experiences of his own adolescence and at times even crying in front of him. When situations arose that would have put most of us parents through the roof, such as Jesse’s drug overdose, Gilmour shows concern and maturity, and when Jesse embarks on a brief rapping career, Gilmour encourages his songwriting and even sneaks out to the club to watch him perform at 1am. By the end of the book, Jesse has grown up and moved on, and Gilmour’s descriptions of the bittersweetness of an empty nest is the most touching part of the book.
Reading this book made me remember the film classes I took in college, and how many classic films I grew to love over the years, and also how many of them I haven’t seen yet. Gilmour brings his experience as a film critic to the page by recounting his favorite scenes from many of the movies and offering interesting little trivia bits about the filmmaking and/or stars in the movies. It was fascinating, and made me want to run, not walk, out to the nearest Blockbuster Video and rent some Hitchcock. I liked how he broke down the movies they watched into “units”, like the Great Writing unit and the Buried Treasures unit, where he would have Jesse watch the movie for famous scenes or great acting.
This was a real gem of a book that I thoroughly enjoyed. Although Gilmour’s decision is not a decision I would ever have made for my child, I can appreciate the guts and creativity he employed trying to stay connected to his son during a very difficult time in his life, that thankfully turned out well for everyone.
Here is a TV interview with David Gilmour and his son Jesse that was filmed after the book’s release in 2008. It’s really cool to see these guys live. Hope you check this book out soon.