Self esteem starts to “bake” in adolescence. It’s part of why adolescence can feel so tragic because there is such a slim grip on feeling ok. I was moved by the raw truth of this movie, a week after watching an adolescent struggle with his self-esteem.
The opening of the movie is powerful as his mother’s boyfriend grills him on rating himself between 1 & 10. It’s painful to watch and you wonder is there a joke in here somewhere that I don’t understand because it is Steve Carell playing the boyfriend. The 14 yr. old Duncan finally answers reluctantly with a 6 and gets bashed for the number being too high.
The core of self-esteem is built on small, medium & large accomplishments layered over time. You see this in Duncan’s exploring during his summer vacation. He finds a bike & a water park that set him free so he can evolve instead of being oppressed by the adults around him.
The relationships he develops at the water park are purely from his own efforts as he adventures into uncertainty and finds himself. It is touching as we watch him grow & succeed beyond his awkwardness into a confident young man. He withstands an awful secret about his father hurled at him by the self-absorbed boyfriend.
We watch the grown ups get lost in drunkenness and crossed boundaries as they act adolescent in contrast to Duncan who finds responsibility to be healing which help him find confidence. The friendship offered by Sam Rockwell is delightful….and how many parents today would really allow that to happen? Stumbling into people who believe in you is part of the wonder of life.
Duncan sits way back in the farthest seat in the station wagon which is accurate for how he feels in his life; disconnected from his Mom who is absorbed with her one year old boyfriend. Lots of kids feel shunted aside by their divorced parents’ new love interests. All of the sudden there is no one on one time with your parent…..their partner is always annoyingly part of the equation.
Parents need to recognize that one on one time really matters even with silent or sullen or angry teens. They all need to eat; so take them out for a meal, just the two of you. As my mentor Sonia Nevis says: Restaurants were made so people have to talk while waiting for the food to come.