It’s a grey world out there

It’s a grey world out there

A few Sundays back H and I happened to sit down together to watch Scent of a Woman. The film is about the relationship between Charlie, a young student and an old cantankerous ex-armyman played by Al Pacino.

I won’t go into the entire story but what caught our attention was Charlie’s dilemma. At school he witnesses some students playing a humiliating prank on their principal. He is spotted by a teacher and is called in for questioning where he refuses to divulge the names of the culprits despite the principle trying to bribe him. He then has to face a disciplinary committee hearing with the threat of expulsion. However, he holds his ground, refusing to tell on his peers even though they never were too kind to him.

So why didn’t Charlie speak up? asked H. After all he wasn’t lying or trying to get anyone in trouble. Besides, they were a bunch of not-so-pleasant boys who had played a prank and they deserved to be punished.

I was glad he listened to Al Pacino’s closing speech. And I have to quote it here because whatever I say wouldn’t be a patch on this:

“I don’t know if Charlie’s silence here today is right or wrong. I’m not a judge or jury. But I can tell you this: he won’t sell anybody out to buy his future!! And that, my friends, is called integrity! That’s called courage! Now that’s the stuff leaders should be made of. Now I have come to the crossroads in my life. I always knew what the right path was. Without exception, I knew. But I never took it. You know why? It was too damn hard. Now here’s Charlie. He’s come to the crossroads. He has chosen a path. It’s the right path. It’s a path made of principle — that leads to character. Let him continue on his journey.”

You can watch the entire speech here.

Al Pacino fills the room with his presence. His voice is powerful, effective, though peppered with expletives. His blind eyes look straight ahead while every eye is focussed on him and his words.

Just as mine and H’s were.

Despite that spectacular speech, H wasn’t convinced. If you see a murder, wouldn’t you help the police? he persisted, even though the cause may have been valid?

Then finally we worked it out. It was the bribe that made it wrong, otherwise it would have been alright for Charlie to tell on his mates. And also maybe he didn’t like the principal and had enjoyed the prank like the other boys, H added with a grin, imagining, I’m sure, one of his teachers drenched in paint (as it was in the film).

That’s a lesson I would much rather not pass on to him, that of laughing at his teachers. However I did realise that he was old enough now to question authority rather than accepting it blindly.

I am glad we watched the film together. I am glad it made H think. Isn’t it wonderful when a film does that? I’m glad he asked his questions. And I’m glad I was there to answer him. It’s a valuable lesson – that truth isn’t always enough. It needs to be examined, at times, through varied lenses of principles and values even kindness and consideration.

It feels like a milestone of sorts that the children are grown up enough to begin to see how complicated life-decisions can be, how grey it all is out there.


PS: If you haven’t seen the film you really must because this is but a small part of its magnificence.

20 Replies to “It’s a grey world out there”

  1. I love Al Pacino and think this is one of his finest movies.. Loved the kid Charlie as he relaly held on his own in front of such a superstar.

    Love H’s questioning mind – its so vital to help our children figure out stuff and its great to see him puzzling this one out so rationally. Kudos to your parenting Tulika.
    Shalzmojo recently put up this amazing post…#Fiction: Hami Asto – for paradise truly is here!!My Profile

    1. Charlie was wonderful – specially in the showdown scene between Pacino and him. he really does hold his own and he has an innocence that’s so endearing.
      Thanks for the compliment. The way I constantly doubt my parenting capacities, validation is precious.

  2. Your post intrigued me to watch this movie movies and books have such impact in our lives, they get us to thinking. Food for thought.

  3. I loved the movie. Need to watch it again with the kids. Al Pacino was so good. I have been doing this, watching my favourite movies with the kids. And you are right. It leads to so many conversations. As kids grow older, so many topics become easier and while others get complicated. It is a nice feeling to be able to actually debate opinions and like you pointed out talk about larger concepts like truth and integrity and how they are not unidimensional. Very perceptive of H and I am glad that you had such a good time with the movie. Have you seen A Few Good Men? I loved watching it with the older son.

    Rachna Parmar recently put up this amazing post…Beetroot Tikki Recipe | How to Make Beetroot CutletMy Profile

    1. A Few Good Men is on our list. I don’t hurry them up or else they lose the essence of the film. Yeah, the sooner they understand that life isn’t black and white the better for them. N understands it much better but H is stuck up about ideas of honesty and fairness so he needed to see this film.

  4. I love it when movies (or books) make the kids sit up and think 🙂 It’s so very heartwarming. I’m particularly impressed by the parallels H drew with a murder and a witness. That is when you know they’re really paying attention to the details.

    This is a movie I need to re-watch. I remember loving it when I saw it the first time. And Al Pacino is amazing, no matter what role he plays 😀
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    1. You must watch it. Pacino’s really good. I was surprised H sat through it because it was rather slow in bits. I thought he wouldn’t get the concept of living ones life to the fullest. But he did.

  5. it is wonderful how things hit you like a big truck when you watch an old film with new eyes. Really your little ones are no more little ones when they begin to question things and not accept them blindly.

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