Nonfiction · Review

The Film Club by David Gilmour

the-film-club-by-david-gilmourPublisher: Twelve

Pub. Date: 2009

Genre: Memoir

Pages: 225

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

A boy drops out of high school on the condition that he will watch three movies that his father chooses. The father-son film club is formed, and they discuss life, drugs, and other worries of life. The Film Club, by David Gilmour, relates films to the boy’s growing up, the changing relationship between father and son, and love.

Starting with first impressions, the book cover, I first saw the spine with the blue font stating the title, but the intriguing part is the little ticket that says “A MEMOIR.” Turning the book over to show the front cover, the lower portion is the classic movie theater sign, sitting on top of a house. Looks like we are about to watch a movie at home. Then the blurb alerts us to the most thrilling part: A father let his son drop out of school so long as he watched three movies a week.

David Gilmour, a former TV personality, shares the story of raising his son, Jesse, and educating him with films. His son skipped and disliked school enough that Gilmour decided something had to change, so he offered his son a chance to leave school and live at home without paying rent so long as he watched three movies a week. As each movie is watched, the boy learns more about the history and techniques of film.

Because this is The Film Club, there are many references to movies. Many of the film references and analyses were lost on me, but Gilmour explains enough to understand what is going on and why it matters to this portion of the memoir. The few movies I knew unlocked more connections to what he talked about, so having knowledge about these movies would provide greater appreciation for the book. Since his writing is slow-paced, I think it would be interesting to watch each film as it appears in the memoir, but I have little interest in rereading the book for that purpose.  For our leisure to see the films, Gilmour listed the films he mentioned in the book.

The author understands his son better than himself, at least as his writing indicates. Jesse’s behavior reminds me of Igby’s in Igby Goes Down (2002) with less rebellion and a better relationship with his mother. The author understands his son’s behavior in his actions and guessing accurately what Jesse is thinking about. That helps develop their complex relationship because they can discuss topics that they cannot with others and have seen each other at their lowest. They rely on each other for emotional support. Gilmour himself does not develop as much largely because he never resolved or continued any mention of his career struggles and romance problems. He would write for a couple of pages about the problems that arose in his career or relationship with his wife, but he never elaborated the outcome or a better connection. These were hinted at repeatedly without resolution.

The greatest problem for me is that the setting is not established well for most of the book. I had little idea what time of year it was or that they were in Toronto for most of the book. The first time I knew anything about location was when they go on vacation to Cuba. Despite Gilmour’s generally slow-paced writing, I hardly knew the time of year or the age of, at least, Jesse. These snapshots of time and sketches of place made it difficult to keep track of the plot.

This memoir is best suited for the film enthusiast, maker, major or critic, but you do not have to be knowledgeable on movies to appreciate and enjoy it. The Film Club is a touching story about a father teaching his son to survive the world and a son trying to negotiate his own path.

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