A man marries a woman, they aren’t too well off, but that’s not important to the story, and they have a baby, a boy, who they love, a lot. One night, the boy, the couples son, he gets killed, he was in their families car and it gets broken into and he gets killed, it’s a tragedy, terrible, wouldn’t even wish this onto ones enemies, but life has to go on, right? The happily married couple, after the murder of their son, splits up, gets divorced, are no longer together, i.e. are no longer legally married, though he still misses her, or not exactly “her,” but his wife, and his son at that, and the life he had, which he longer has. And the man, who sees his ex-wife regularly, has found out that she is now with a new guy and pregnant again, with a new child that wont be his. Let’s say that the man X is a carpenter, you know the blue denim overall type, and at his job, one day he sees this sixteen-year-old kid, let’s call him Y, come in looking for a job, and he recognizes the boy from the trial for his sons murder. This boy Y at first gets a job in the wielding department of the factory, but then, for some complex reason the man X wants for some reason be closer to this “messed up” kid, well after what he’s done, he has to be messed up – right? So this blonde-haired boy who has just got out of a five-year prison term, and you can tell he’s probably living in a half-way house with a social-worker or a shitty one-room apartment with his mattress on the floor and stuff, and he’s so happy and feels lucky to have this job, and but like starts to appreciate X’s guidance and helpfulness, as this kid never knew his own father and apparently his mom’s boyfriend doesn’t allow him to see her, i.e. the boys mom. And X does help him out, not exactly because he wants to, but he’s caught in a few instances where he just kind-of has to help, like he’s asked where a certain street is and, really, if you know, how can you not direct him to the right street, or else you would be a total dick. And Y is impressed with X’s ability to precisely measure objects and distances, to the fucking centimeter, and they play around with this, the distance between Y and a car, the length of a piece of wood etc. Let’s return back to X and describe him more faithfully: X is a big man, he does sit-ups on his floor regularly, looks to be around 5’10 and weighs around 210 pounds, balding with short brown hair, thick lenses in his steel-rimmed glasses, with a constant pissed off look on his face, as if he’s keeping at bay an overwhelming anger (with the loss of the son, this is understandable), and when ever X is around Y this seems to be amplified. While Y is aloof, silent, also more introspective, but unlike X the reasons for Y w/r/t the introspection it seems like its more like that of a hurt puppy or that of a child who accidentally touched a cooking element, he’s gone through too much and is now weary, and its painful to hear Y describes playing foosball when he was locked up as a way “to forget my problems,” because its a perfectly child-like thing to do, but in a very un-childlike mise en scène. So X and Y work more and more together, and on one day they go on a suspiciously long drive to a lumber yard (so far they’ve only been working in the carpentering workshop), and on this drive X asks Y about the murder, and Y asks X if he would consider taking him in and being his guardian. Silence. They keep driving. They are now in the lumberyard, where everything seems to reach a climax w/r/t to their interpersonal relationship. As at the lumberyard, this expansive industrial space, with its steel walls and ceiling, full of stacks of lumber, stacked on one another, full of hiding spaces and shadows: X tells Y that he’s the father of the boy that he killed. An unbalanced moment, for Y as he has to both (a) think about all of the experiences he had with X and mentally revisit these experience – some of them have been pretty scary, e.g. X knocking him off a ladder, X throwing down large planks of wood at him – to see how this might change his perception of them and (b) run, get away from this deranged figure, um, because who would actually spend all of this time to get close to the person who killed your son, right, and what does he, X, want to do to him, anyways? After an extensive chase, which seems like its right out of French Connection II or something, the two of them are now outside on the dirt, X catches up with Y, is on top of him, choking him, X has his hands around his throat, Y isn’t breathing right, X’s grip is getting tighter, there is the look of a murderer in his eyes, shit, is he going to do it? Kill Y, the person who killed his son, who he’s been working with for these last few days, and who he now kind-of likes, what good would it actually do? There is no way X’s son is coming back, and what about, when X was chasing Y, and tells him that he doesn’t want to hurt him, and now he’s doing just that.
And then X stops, and throws his hands, his fists, on the ground.
They both sit up, beside each other, for a while, and breathe heavily, and then the man, X, walks away. He’s now back at his car, dirty, after all the rolling around in dirt, and he’s putting the last few pieces of lumber in his vehicle, and then the boy, Y, is there and after a brief moment of hesitation, the boy starts to help.
Q: (A) Is the man, X, a good father?
For the answer to this question, and more concerning Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne's film Le fils come to hear Adam Nayman discuss it at the next talk in the series What We Talk About at the Drake Underground later on this month.