Tuesday, October 17, 2017

American Fable (2016)

Sometimes, we find ourselves with a difficult choice.  The correct option isn’t always immediately evident. Gitty, an 11-year-old girl, finds herself in that situation when she finds a man in a silo.  The silo happens to be on her family’s property.  The man is named Jonathan.  He’s well dressed and wants help, but is hesitant to let Gitty get her father, Abe.

What’s she to do?  The easiest solution is to find the key for the lock and to get some books.  She can’t find the correct key, despite bringing with her any key she can find.  She does get some books from the library, which she leaves for Jonathan to read.  They spend the next several weeks talking to each other.  We initially assume, correctly, that Abe is involved with Jonathan’s captivity.

You might wonder why she doesn’t get help.  I still wonder that.  Martin may be her brother, but he’s still a major jerk, for lack of a more-polite term, so he can’t be trusted.  She finds out that the family farm isn’t as safe as Abe had been letting on.  Her parents are maybe not the best option, either.  She at least brings food to Jonathan and keeps him company until Martin finds out about it.

By this point, little is done, although we know she has options.  Gitty has rope to get herself in and out of the silo, although no attempt is made by Jonathan to get out this way.  She eventually finds an axe, although no attempt is made earlier in the film; only when it’s imperative that Jonathan get out.  She also makes no attempt to use the axe on the outside of the door, which would be easier than the inside.

The situation reminds me a joke about a preacher who finds himself surrounded by rising water.  Before the flooding begins, the area receives several warnings over TV and radio, which he hears.  Convinced that God will protect and save him, he stays.  As the waters start to rise, a man in a canoe comes by and offers to take the preacher to safety.  Again, the preacher is convinced that God’s protection is all he needs.  After the waters have driven the preacher to the roof, a helicopter comes along and offers to take the preacher away.  Again, the preacher refuses, adamant that God will rescue him.

The preacher subsequently dies and ascends to the pearly gates.  When he meets St. Peter, the preacher demands to speak with God right away.  The preacher asks why God did nothing to save the preacher’s life.  God responds, “What are you talking about?  I sent you a warning, a canoe and a helicopter.  What more did you want?”

It’s stated that Jonathan and Gitty have spent several weeks getting to know each other.  I can’t believe that she made no attempt to get Jonathan out.  She could easily have called for help, either by phone or through several other characters we see.  There’s that old gimmick of sending a letter that never gets sent or is somehow misdirected.  We don’t even get that.

The problem is very subdued.  Neither Gitty nor Jonathan seems to be distressed by the situation.  Ok. So the movie is called American Fable.  Maybe there’s supposed to be some sort of allegory going on.  I would take several issues with this characterization.  First, a fable tends to have all sorts of mystical elements, like talking animals.  The movie had none of that, despite what the description may have said.  Second, fables tend to have an obvious moral lesson.  American Fable was almost the opposite.  I didn’t really know what I was supposed to get from this.  Am I to assume that not liberating Jonathan was the correct thing to do?  Is it even fair to put this choice on the shoulders of a child?  The movie didn’t really deal with any of this.  Yes, the farm is relatively isolated, but there were other things she could have tried.

My biggest problem is that I started seeing the plot holes rather than the story itself.  For instance, Gitty kept bringing Jonathan things.  It’s hard to imagine that no one in her family noticed.  Granted, she was probably taking stuff back with her, but she probably left the books for Jonathan to read.  One would assume that either Abe or someone else would have checked in on Jonathan and noticed the books or some other item that Gitty had left.

For that matter, I don’t think it was explicitly stated whether or not Abe was feeding Jonathan.  Abe was working with someone else, so it’s possible that there was a miscommunication, but Jonathan might have starved without Gitty’s intervention.  She’s not bringing him snacks.  She’s bringing stuff like bread and water, for which Jonathan seems grateful.

As for the library books, Gitty states that she has them for two weeks.  If I’m interpreting the timeline correctly, Jonathan has them for about that long or maybe longer.  (There was a line where Jonathan says, “These past few weeks” to  Gitty.)  No mention is made of Gitty trying to get them back to the library or the library calling about them.   This would have made a great way for Gitty to be found out.

I did enjoy the movie, but it required a small amount of suspension of disbelief.  The entire kidnapping aspect seemed too easy and too underplayed.  The entire movie is understated to the point that it almost seems implausible.  We even have a final scene that seems to throw on a level of ambiguity.  Upon seeing the final scene, I could only wonder what it was that I had just watched.

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