What do you do when your kid is a “smart, sensitive, restless, chain-smoking 16-year-old who [is] flunking out of everything at school”? In the case of author David Gilmour, his response to his son Jesse is told in his new book The Film Club: A Memoir (Canadian title, The Film Club: A True Story of a Father and a Son). Perplexed and exasperated, “Gilmour finally let Jesse drop out, with only two conditions: he couldn’t do drugs, and he had to agree to watch three movies a week with the old man” (CBC Review). Now this is a decidedly unusual approach, to say the least. No hitting the roof? No throwing him out? No grounding until he’s 37? No “Then get a job, you bum!”? I haven’t read the book, but I understand it works out in the end… both are presently at the University of Toronto, one as a student and the other as a visiting literary professor. It sounds like through this exceptionally bold move, Gilmour just stumbled into something. Something important.
Gilmour was once a film critic for CBC Television so maybe the curriculum was a bit natural, but he says it could have been anything, even skydiving. The three-year homeschooling experiment was, in the final analysis, mostly about spending time together. I tend to think skydiving wouldn’t have been as effective, since the movie curriculum included discussions on the films, which necessitated more interaction and analysis. Even from a CBC article on the book, one already gets the impression that the pair went through an extended bonding period together. I haven’t read the book, but it’s already a good story and one worth looking at a bit further… clearly it offers a lesson about the impact that parents can have in the lives of their kids if they just take the time to be involved, despite the cost, particularly at those ages where kids most need support and encouragement. I suppose I can’t say a lot more than that without convicting myself to some degree.
The Film Club: A True Story of a Father and a Son It was Jesse himself who suggested that Gilmour write The Film Club. “I was going to write a book about how to get over a woman,” Gilmour says, “and he said, ‘That’s a terrible idea. All your novels are about that. Put it to sleep. Why don’t you write about you and me sitting around on the couch for three years watching movies?'” Nonetheless, Jesse was shocked when he initially read the manuscript and saw the candid portrait his father had painted. He’s since made peace with it, Gilmour says, and is even helping promote the book.