General story background Jon Voight has been estranged from his children basically since his divorce from Millie Perkins. She has remarried to successful attorney Richard Crenna. Trying to reinforce his relationship with his children, he takes them on a cruise. While on board the ship, he receives word that his ex-wife has been killed in an automobile accident and Crenna is coming after what he terms his' children. The ensuing head butt is the crux of the story.
Now the true story While Voight was absent during a good part of his children's lives, Crenna stepped in. Crenna was there for the daily problems, school problems, illnesses. He knew their best friends, their teachers names and their dreams. Voight barely knew the children's names, let alone their favorite things.
These are all things we are witnessing daily with the broken home/extended family lifestyle we are adapting. In addition, the point in the movie was made that since Voight was the natural father, he should obtain custody. The mother, however, had always expressed the wish that Crenna would retain custody, in the event anything should happen to her.
So, we are faced with another real life dilemma - who is better for the child? The natural or the adoptive parent that has been with them all along? And, as brought forth in the movie, do we even bother to consider the children's wishes in this? Are they, or should they, consulted? All good points.
Added to this particular mix, however, there is the additional burden of Trung, played quite well by Son Hoang Bui, a boy that Voight and Perkins adopted when they were married. This child has already felt rejection by his natural parents, the divorce of his adoptive parents, a re-marriage, the death of his adoptive mother, and now the possible rejection by Voight, his adoptive father.
When Voight approaches him and tells him They will always remain friends', he breaks down (finally) and says I don't need a friend, I need a father'. Now who has the responsibility of this child, who has already been through so much? Quite an interesting twist there.
There are two other children involved, the daughter, Roxana Zal, and son, Robby Kiger. Zal has pretty much taken on the responsibility of mentor to her younger brother since the divorce. She is the one that nurtures him and helps him through his nightmares. In a very poignant scene Zal is comforting Kiger after his nightmare and Voight enters the room.
She turns to her dad and slowly tells the story of the huge white kangaroo that haunts Kigers' dreams, ending with the statement You should feel safe when you are in bed, shouldn't you?', as she patiently rubs the boys back until he sleeps again. Kiger, by the way, has developed a serious case of dyslexia, seeming to stem from the time of the divorce.
All these children problems' are things that have to be addressed by Voight as he faces the fact that perhaps he isn't the best choice as a parent. Then too, we have Crenna who is rich and successful and who can provide private schools, lessons, tutors, clothes, homes, cars - all physical things. The stickler is, though, he really loves those kids.
So, the question presented is this, who services the children's needs better? And, do we even consult the children? A very thought provoking movie and a sentimental look at live, love, divorce and death.
A thought While this movie received little acclaim when released, I think it should be re-released now, with our no fault' marriages and absentee parents'. This movie deals a lot with biological versus adoptive parenting, a subject you hear more about every day.
Starring Jon Voight, Richard Crenna, Millie Perkins, Robby Kiger, and Son Hoang Bui and a wonderful performance by Roxana Zal (beautiful, articulate and very accomplished). Look for a quick peek of Kevin Costner. Some wonderful cinematography, Vilmos Zsigmond, of Athens, Rome and Cairo. A sentimental and painful look at life, divorce and death.