Double feature: If nothing else, “Nebraska” and “Late Spring” have in common the ability to serve as post-Fathers Day food for thought, inspiring reflections on the varieties and potentialities of father-child relationships. But the links connecting these two films go deeper than that.
Both explore the concept of filial duty, and provide examples of good-hearted adult children who are willing to sacrifice some of their own interests in the name of its obligations. In dealing with this material, both films quietly ask whether acts of caring for one’s parents aren’t, themselves, also in the children’s own interest, pointing to the extent to which “individual interests” become intertwined between generations. Both films depict this intertwining as a source of potential strength as well as potential tragedy.
Both of these films involve children not only telling, but perpetuating, benevolent lies to their parents – and vice versa – in the service of moving forward. Both have an air of mystery fed by their characters’ reticence, their visual spareness, and their repetitive rhythms. They stay low to the ground, these films – focused on the details. When they do pan to the skies, the direction is more outward than upward, suggesting that this life, this world, is big enough to keep us all busy, without having to think beyond it.
Sweetness and sadness, wistful humor and modest wisdom pepper both films in roughly equal amounts. If they don’t seem exactly on the same level, if “Nebraska” inspires doubts about its potential to become the classic that “Late Spring” is, chalk up the difference to the latter’s more graceful performances and less of a need to reach for cheap humor. Maybe one of the films in this pairs glows brighter than the other, but both definitely glow.
For a marathon: For another dose of semi-fraught father/son dynamics, and benevolent father/son dishonesty in the name of honor/reputation, follow up “Nebraska” with “Footnote.”
The narrative themes of “Late Spring” can harmoniously rhyme with those in films as various as “The Graduate” (the anxiety of moving forward, and alone, on the path of adulthood; the inability to articulate that anxiety), “The Night of the Iguana” (saintly spinster sacrifices), and “The More the Merrier” (yet more benevolent deception, for the cause of domestic happiness…or at least a shot at it.)
(Creative Commons licensed original images courtesy of “Fotofilius” and “sleepyneko” at Flickr)