This week our parenting group watched and discussed one of my all time favorite films, Life As A House. The story of George a man who receives a terminal cancer diagnosis. He decides to spend his last days restoring his relationship with his teenage son, Sam, by spending the summer tearing down the old broken down house he inherited from his father,and building a new one. A perfect metaphor for what George and Sam do to their own broken down relationship.George is not perfect and certainly there were big mistakes that were made in his past relationship with his son. But one does not need to be defined by their past, nor does the family dynamic.
In this film we see George, after learning about his cancer, display a deep determination to correct the error of his past and reestablish a loving relationship with his son. This is done through a persistent patient loving response to Sam's repeated antagonistic attempts at rejecting his Father. Though George does have some strong reactions to some of Sam's actions, he always manages to communicate his love and belief in his son. Even when Sam tells his Dad to go "F" off, or rudely ignores his Dad's requests, George does get baited into punishing or moralizing or critiquing Sam. George is always firm, clear about his expectations, and constantly reiterating his determination to love and be there for his son, no matter what. How often as parents do we fall into this trap when dealing with defiant teens. We start to lay down the law when we need to be reinforcing our unconditional love.
There is also another great lesson that is subtly shown in this story, "Change yourself and the world around you changes". By the end of the film the many lives that George has touched change in some way. From Sam and his younger siblings,to Mom, Step Dad and even George's quirky neighbor, all change for the better.
Finally, there is the powerful story line of the house that George has inherited from his alcoholic, dysfunctional Dad. A symbol for those "family of origin issues", the powerful negative beliefs that many of us carry with us throughout our adult life. Beliefs that block us from moving forward and living the life we desire. Just as George had to take the sledge hammer to that old rotten house, so he could build the new one, we too must break through those old limiting beliefs so we can build a new successful life.
A film with a powerful message that is also stunningly beautiful, set on the cliffs of Pales Verde, California with a superb cast that includes Kevin Klein, Kristin Scott Thomas and Hayden Christensen. Get it Amazon.com