Making the Grades
The loss of a child is probably a parent’s worst nightmare. And while accidental or premature death are heartbreaking enough, having a son or daughter mysteriously go missing is even more heart wrenching.
This frightening thought becomes reality for Randy and Cristal Simpkins (Dean Cain and Lori Beth Edgeman) one busy day as they are preparing for a much-needed family vacation. Rushing to pack the van, Cristal asks her husband to put two-year-old Joe (Pierce Gagnon) into his car seat while she finishes up in the house. Instead, Randy lets the youngster have a few extra minutes on his tricycle while he checks his work e-mail. When the pair next meets up in the driveway, there is no sign of the toddler.
At first the couple thinks the little fellow has just wandered out of earshot. But when their calls prove fruitless, they expand their search. Did he decide to walk to his grandparents’ place just a couple of farms over? Has he headed for a friends house? Or has he been attracted by the lure of the neighbor’s pool? When he can’t be found in any of these places, the Simpkins contact emergency services to ask for assistance.
In short order the police and fire department are on the job, assessing the situation and weighing the possibilities of accidental loss or foul play. For the increasingly distraught parents, this process seems to be taking up valuable time that should be used looking for Joe. Meanwhile, the local townspeople also respond to the distress call, and friends, acquaintances and strangers drop their present occupations to join the search party. The Simpkins religious community offers their support too, through prayers and volunteers.
Yet of all those involved, the seriousness of the situation seems to be hitting Randy the hardest. As the frantic father searches their rural surroundings, he notices for the first time the possible dangers of every pond, forest and neglected outbuilding. As well, his personal priorities come sharply into focus. Why have work obligations become more important to him than family time? What if he never sees his son grow to be a man?
These emotions, and the mounting concern over the length of time the child has been lost, create a lot of tension as the screenplay unfolds. While the Sheriff (Tom Nowicki) chomps on his cigar and the Police Chief (Brett Rice) keeps the growing crowd under control, a few mild expletives and terms of deity are uttered. And the stress causes a few harsh words between Randy and Cristal.
Yet the overriding theme of the film is one of hope as the despairing parents put their faith in God and the kind efforts of their neighbors. Closely based on the true story of the Simpkins family (who have cameo appearances in the movie), their experience is a caution sign for anyone detoured on life’s road as they try to find The Way Home.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about The Way Home.
While the townspeople want to help in the search for the lost boy, what problems does their participation create for the emergency rescue workers? How does their concern for Joe affect the family? What does the police chief observe about their presence as the long hours pass? Does this story affect the way you feel about the "goodness" of the human family?