Making the Grades
In the fall of 1974, the Minor children reach a crisis in their lives. Although growing up with their alcoholic mother Marilyn (Rosanna Arquette) has never been easy, the siblings have been buffered from the worst of her abuse by their loving father (Christopher Atkins). When he dies unexpectedly, the threesome is left to face the wrath of the woman’s grief and weight of her dysfunction alone. But the breaking point occurs when she decides to have one of the teens committed to a mental hospital.
Dana (Devon Greye) has been "special" since his birth. His simple ways and insatiable curiosity have proven just other irritants in Marilyn’s already disappointing life. While she has neglected, threatened, belittled and battered all of her offspring (and even her husband), it is only Dana she routinely locks in a closet. Figuring there is now know one to oppose her decision, she sends her son to a lock and key institution.
Her actions are the final straw for Kenneth and Charlotte (Jesse James and Adrien Finkel). The desire to protect their brother, and the firm belief that children should not have to live the way they do, soon has the pair formulating a get away plan that includes freeing Dana. Their secret, final destination is the home of their father’s mother (Dee Wallace).
Most of the film follows the kids attempt to get from Texas to Grandma’s Oregon house in their dad’s rundown station wagon. Like other road trip movies, the route is full of bumps and detours sure to pave the way for character growth and learning. Amongst these potholes is a hitchhiker named Travis Crawford (Alexander Carroll) who is offered a ride after he helps fix a flat tire. Even though he looks like a hippie, the Vietnam vet provides some adult supervision to the travelling trio.
The Minors describe their quest as, "Running from a worse place to a better one." Yet parents should be aware of some hazards along the way. Portrayals of child abuse, bullying and arguing adults (though depicted in little detail) may be frightening for young viewers. These kids feel authority figures are not to be trusted and all they can count on is one another. This sentiment heaps upon them an overwhelming sense of responsibility—especially for Kenneth. Other content concerns are the sexual escapades of their mother, methods of dealing with bodily functions and profanity use. As well, the teens also resort to stealing as they transverse over a thousand miles of US soil.
Yet this limited-release film also offers a feel-good script, some tender sentimental moments and messages of determination and sibling devotion. Stellar performances (Devon Greye as Dana in particular) and quality production values make the story even more impactful. Because the plight of Kenneth, Charlotte and Dana touches on some mature themes, families are likely to gain more from this lonely exodus if they share the journey together.
Exodus Fall is opening in limited release on April 8, 2011.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Exodus Fall.
One of the strangers the Minor children meet tells them, "Next time you see someone down and out, help pick them up. You never know what they might be going through." Is this good advice? Were the siblings also in need? How can you reach out to others, while at the same time keep yourself safe?
Charlotte confesses to taking money from her mother and some of her dates. Kenneth steals a vehicle so they can escape. And Dana shoplifts. Are these acts justified because of the situation these teens find themselves in? Or are right and wrong behaviors beyond the influence (or rationale) of circumstances?
The Minor children rely on their own strength and wits to better their predicament. How else might they have tried to remedy their problem? Are there people or places they could have turned to for help?
How does the children’s grandmother respond to the accusations of their alcoholic mother? What is unusual about her approach? What affect does it have? Why?