It’s about timeÂ Robin Williams did something good!
As Lance Clayton, Williams is a perfectly average high school English teacher with less than full classrooms and struggling to maintain a relationship with his son as a single dad. He’s written five novels and each one has been rejected by publishers. And most of all, as he says in the beginning, he’s terrified of being alone. Kyle (Daryl Sabara),Â his son, is the quintessential high school black sheep: one close friend who he isn’t even nice to, thinks everything is stupid (he uses less than G-Rated terminology, but I’ll keep it family friendly), and harbors a mean addiction to internet porn and video games. Basically, the kid is a foul-mouthed, slovenly, disrespectful jerk with no sort of future. And all the while Lance seems to feel like his life is bottoming out: he has no students in his poetry class and those he does have, plagiarize, his girlfriend (Alexie Gilmore) seems to be more interested in the “cool” teacher and begins spending more and more time with the cool guy than with him, Â and add all this to his son not wanting anything to do with him, and you’ve got your plot conflict!! It starts out quite slow, but at the inevitable plot twist, it all gets a lot more interesting…
Lance decides he’s going to try to better his relationship with his son, thereby making a decision not to spend the night with his girlfriend, when the unthinkable happens. For the second time in the movie Lance walks in on his son in a compromising and embarrassing situation, but this time he had accidentally choked himself to death. In an attempt to minimize the embarrassment and allow Kyle a somewhat honorable death, Lance writes a suicide note for him. Being a talented author, the note has depth and sincerity and angst, and it touches everyones lives in a different way. Kids who were never nice to Kyle in his life suddenly were his best friends, the school is plastered with photos of Kyle, and Lance finds himself a classroom with standing room only, if only for curiosities’ sake. This suicide note gets Lance sympathy and popularity, and eventually he winds up writing more under the assumed identity of Kyle, finally achieving his goal of being published. But it all comes at a cost. He feels more alone despite his short-lived national fame, his conscious is at a continuous battle between gain and righteousness, and kids who had thought of suicide as an escape begin admitting to Lance their toying with the idea but feel as though they have been saved by Kyle’s note. What is a man to do?
This movie is creative and has some excellent scenes. By the way, watching Robin Williams literally weep for the loss of his son is one of the most heart-wrenching, gut stabbing scenes I’ve seen this side of Schindler’s List. Who wants to watch a silly man like him live out unimaginable agony? Well, it’s worth it because he delivers a real and identifiable character through this role. The speech can be quite crass at times so its not for the feint of heart, and Kyle’s character is a thoroughly unlikeable one. But this is the point. This makes the dispute between whether or not what Lance gains from his death a difficult one. The school characters are just stereotypical enough to add comedic effect, and Kyle’s friend Andrew seemingly mirrors Lance’s conscience, of course, as Kyle’s only friend, he knew Kyle was too stupid to write that note.
If you don’t mind some crude language, mature content, and a naked Robin Williams, you might enjoy this film. It’s not going to be for everyone. A lot of people I feel will find this movie very disturbing, but that’s what dark comedies often are. But it’s clever and original and well-written. It’s not every day a father capitalizes on his son’s death.