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An absurb yet heatbreaking road trip, a nasty yet funny DVD, and another compelling dark English childhood mystery

 

   Another Happy Day (DVD)

This film puts the fun in dysfunctional, at least in my book. A wedding and a funeral, a petri dish for whatever is fulminating in this benighted family. Lynn is driving her younger sons (one an addict, the other with Aspergers) to the marriage of her older son. A lovely estate with pool,expansive grounds, Chesapeake Bay. Her daughter, a cutter, is "fragile," and has been estranged from her father, who is now married to tempestuous Chloe. The matriarch wants all signs of  conflict swept under the rug. Pater familias is old and sick. Abandonment issues, territorial wars (who's really the mother of the groom, since Chloe essentially brought him up). Grotesque sisters, worthy of Cinderella's kin with their braying laughter. A small, doleful,l dressed up dog. Excellent acting, fine cinematography. (One particularly great scene of the frenetic dancing after the wedding with poignant dreamlike music as the soundtrack.) Highly recommended

  
What They Do In The Dark by Amanda Coe

One more in the string of childhood as brutal misery books I seem to have encountered recently. Gemma's 10, unpopular. Her parents split and now she and mum live with placid but creepy "uncle" Ian. She ends up befriending tough, poor Pauline, a classmate, who leads her down very twisted paths. A movie scene shot on school grounds intensifies emotions (Pauline is included but Gemma doesn't make the cut). The book ends with an utterly shocking act. Coe conveys a child's skewed perspective deftly and reveals how the unthinkable might occur. This all takes place in Yorkshire, set in the '70s. Why am drawn to such material? It's fascinating, dramatic, and lifts the lid on the illusion of childhood as a time of innocence. Hah!
 

    Father's Day by Buzz Bissinger

Subtitled: A Journey into the Mind & Heart of My Extraordinary Son. Bissinger is a Pulitzer prize- winning author who had a big hit with his Friday Night Lights. But when his twin sons were born very prematurely, Zach was deprived of  oxygen and is brain-damaged while his brother Gerry survived intact. Bissinger is bi-polar, has been married three times--the last one stuck--and is a passionate, anguished father. He does everything he can to support and encourage Zach but often feels alienated. Hence this crazy road trip, a chance to make a better connection. Zach is a savant. He can remember everything (dates, names, etc.) that he's experienced. The itinerary is planned as a pilgrimage to revisit significant locations and also to have what Bissinger hopes will be fun. Predictably, it's more pain than pleasure: bad scenery, horrid hostelries, emotional and physical discomforts galore. But it serves a very important function: to enable Bissinger to release Zach to his true self, rather than trying to superimpose what he thinks should happen. Strong emotions, considerable candor, sometimes hard to read because of the material, but definitely worth it.

 

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Posted by: Neshama

Neshama works at the Fairfax Library.

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