Thursday, June 18, 2009

Gran Torino

I watched 79-year-old Clint Eastwood's latest (and probably last) movie on DVD last night. He plays a stolid, grumpy character with flint in his bones who, at the beginning of the movie, has just lost his beloved wife, and now lives alone with his dog. He's the only white person in a neighbourhood where various other ethnic groups have moved in, and lives right next door to a Hmong family - the teenagers speak English, but the mother and grandmother have no English at all.
The movie takes a while to wind up: the first twenty minutes or so set up Eastwood (who plays Kowalski, so ironically he comes from a family that were immigrants themselves at one point) as the sole survivor of the white people in the neighbourhood, at odds with his neighbours (or at least wanting to avoid them), and at odds with the '27-year-old virgin' Catholic priest who insists on keeping his promise to Eastwood's deceased wife, that he'd get the man to confession.
Then there's a turnaround, and he begins to befriend - or mentor - the young Hmong boy from next door, who's in line to get caught up in a gang that does nothing but cause trouble.
The relationship is a surprise - for both the characters - and for the audience. And the outcome of their relationship is also a surprise, with an intriguingly Christian parallel underpinning it.
I won't spoil the story for you, but it's worth seeing. You'll have to put up with Kowalski's often foul and blasphemous mouth (though some of his use of language is quite funny), but if you can get past that, this is a movie that has considerable integrity at its heart (as Eastwood's late period movies mostly have). And it's an interesting parable in its own way.

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