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September 19, 2012

The Kids Grow Up

by Franz Patrick


Kids Grow Up, The (2009)
★★ / ★★★★

Doug Block assembled family videos he recorded over the years and painted a portrait of Lucy’s childhood, his only daughter, up until she left home to attend college. Block’s attachment to her daughter was explained by his determination to become a different type of father than his own. Instead of being emotionally distant and avoiding important conversations, Block continuously tried to be more hands-on and unafraid to ask questions about what was going on in Lucy’s mind. Since the university I chose to attend after high school was far from home, I was able to appreciate specific moments in “The Kids Grow Up.” For instance, when Lucy and her parents said their goodbyes outside the dormitory, I knew exactly how Lucy must have felt. The combination of excitement, sadness, and fear was almost too much for her, but she tried to put on a brave face because she was aware that this change of living arrangement was a part of growing up. But the film wasn’t just about Lucy going off to college. It was also focused on Doug’s fear of letting go. That fear was best explored when his wife, who suffered from major depression, explained the difference between love and attachment and suggested that perhaps Doug leaned toward the latter at times. She offered a specific insight about what it meant to be a loving parent which I found so interesting and comforting, I wished she was in front of the lens more often. Sometimes I wondered whether it was unhealthy for the camera to be on Lucy all the time. There was even a scene in which Doug admitted that he was “all ears” when Lucy and her boyfriend were behind closed doors. I wouldn’t want to be videotaped if I was engaging in something personal. Ethics entered the equation but it wasn’t fully explored. Lucy brought up the issue of privacy and the divide between recording and experiencing. I was surprised she was able to talk about in a relatively calm demeanor in order to get across her specific point of view about the matter. She was consistently interesting to watch because there was a certain maturity about her. However, I found the picture highly repetitive. The ideas would have been more focused if it had been limited to just over an hour. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” was a question asked about ten times. After the third time, I understood the point: Block still saw his daughter as a child. The last shot should have been Lucy entering her dorm. The last ten minutes felt like a completely different film, the one about the strained relationship between Doug and his father. It wasn’t necessary. By adapting a too personal of a narrative, “The Kids Grow Up” lost some of its power in terms of its message and universality. What it should have done was say what needed to be said without resulting to insular sentimentality.

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