29 April 2004 | vertigo_14
The Rites of Passage
Among the Cinders if a different sort of coming-of-age story. Based on the Maurice Shadbolt's novel, it is the story of a quiet New Zealand teenager Nick Flinders.
Nick seems quite detached from his surroundings, never really having much of a connection to family, but mostly his parents and older brother, particularly because of their boilerplate version of parenting. He mother always seems to approach the boy with scorn, and Nick also comments that he hated how his father was always trying to be reasonable when he's in trouble whereas his grandfather would've taken the belt to him in two minutes. His family never seem to look at Nick as Nick, but rather apply their respective templates of paternal guidance.
Nick even has few friends in his small town, noting that he was never sure if the aboriginal boy, Sam, was really his friend, or just felt obligated to treat Nick as such because Nick previously saved the boy from drowning.
Nick and Sam were on a hunting trip one weekend when Sam fell down a crevice and died. Nick was at his side and tried to save him, and throughout is unsure as to how he felt about Sam's death, because he was never sure of the extent of their relationship. After the accident, Nick becomes isolated from his family and Sam's family, which treated him like a son, with much more affection than from his own family, particularly Sam's grandmother.
Nick's parents can't seem to figure out why Nick won't bother with anyone following the accident, but they never ask him about it, either. His poet brother surmises various psychological problems with Nick, none of which are realistic, and all of which are once again, a boilerplate response. At this point, you can really see how dysfunctional Nick's relationship with his own family is, and especially when compared to his relationship with others.
Nick's grandfather comes to fetch the boy, inviting him to the grandparent's home for a bit of recovery time. Nick's grandparents, loving and somewhat eccentric, are much more affectionate towards Nick. And it is his grandfather that suggests that he and Nick take something of a spiritual trip, I suppose, to find gum fields and gold fields. And this is where the bulk of Nick's rite of passage experiences occur, even to include something of a love story.
It's an interesting movie, particularly because it's such an unusual coming-of-age story about a boy who's really not a child at all. The tag line begins, "a man inside." Nick seems pretty sure of himself from the start.
I did have some difficulty following the dialogue, however, due to some thick accents among the characters and of course, some cultural differences. I suppose reading the book would sort out the confusion, if the movie follows the book all that much. But it was a pleasure to watch, nonetheless. The synopsis on the box made it seem like a love story, which it really wasn't. Nick does fall in love with a woman named Sally who he meets on the beach while traveling with his grandfather, but it did not seem all that consequential to the story. I do recommend watching this one if you're in the mood for a pleasant coming-of-age tale.