Making the Grades
Prejudice, it seems, is not the exclusive flaw of any one group. Luckily the wonderful message of this film is that intolerance can be replaced with acceptance.
Eleven-year-old David Wiseman (Sam Smith) is passionate about cricket. He has a shoebox full of trading cards, an autographed bat and a crisp, white uniform. But despite his avid enthusiasm, the reserved young boy is so bad at the game that he's lucky just to be the scorekeeper for his school team.
Living in a London row house, he is the son of Jewish immigrants who escaped from Germany and now are trying to discreetly assimilate themselves into the English neighborhood. His father, Victor (Stanley Townsend) is consumed by long hours at his shop in hopes of securing a better life for his family. His much-younger mother, Ruth (Emily Woof), who is left to care for things at home, is starved for attention and affection.
Unfortunately, the neighbors are guarded and cool to the non-Christians. But that changes when a Jamaican family moves onto the street. Redirecting their suspicions toward the lively West Indian immigrants, the established majority suddenly embraces the Wisemans and wants their help in shooing away the newcomers.
Worried about what the neighbors might think, David's parents caution him against associating with the new arrivals. But watching from behind his bedroom curtains, David realizes Dennis (Delroy Lindo) and his daughter Judy (Leonie Elliot) are constructing a cricket enclosure in their backyard. Casting aside his mother's warnings, he begs the Samuels to teach him to play.
Thankfully, David is too devoted to cricket to realize the social repercussions of his decision and in time a friendship forms between the orthodox Jew and the animated Jamaicans. Ruth also finds herself attracted to the warmhearted Dennis who is entirely unlike her distant husband. Before long her attraction turns to infatuation and she begins to make more than social advances over their shared fence. Although David doesn't understand his mother's actions, Judy figures out what the young wife's intentions are.
With mounting racial tensions added to the neighborhood gossip, violence soon erupts resulting in a black man being threatened with a knife and punched by a group of ruffians. In the dark of night, a home is also set ablaze. Yet it soon becomes evident that the Londoners at large aren't the only ones harboring racial bias. Even David has to reexamine his attitudes toward the Samuels when Judy shows up unexpectedly at his birthday party.
Although the film's plea for tolerance is essential for a global community, the scripts contains some content parents might object to, especially for younger family members. Intimidation and brief racial slurs are employed to demean others not only in the schoolyard but also by adults. David's schoolmates also use it to try and coerce him into smoking with them behind the classroom.
Still, viewers don't have to be crazy about cricket or even understand it in order to enjoy this film. As David's budding consciousness grows along with his confidence, he realizes the need to accept and even embrace diversity in his neighborhood. Too bad we aren't all so wondrously oblivious to differences.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Wondrous Oblivion.
What are some of the pressures new immigrants may face? What compels Victor to put in long hours at the shop? What stresses does Ruth face at home? How do racial tensions add to the difficulties experienced by the Samuels family?
What does David learn about real friendship? In what ways does the arrival of the Samuels eventually change the neighborhood?