DVD: Mile Zero
Release date: 2007
Director: Andrew Currie. Written by Andrew Currie and Michael Melski
Starring Michael Riley, Connor Widdows, and Sabrina Grdevich
How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn!
Isaiah 14:12 (NIV)
You start with two good parents. Eventually these parents fall afoul of each other and you end up not with two good parents separated, but rather with one good parent (the one who got to keep you) and one bad parent (the one who only gets to visit, if that).
This bad parent is the one you’re not supposed to end up like, but biology dictates that being like this bad parent is inescapable. The good parent, with the support of the social order, calls the shots. The bad parent slowly goes mad with helpless rage.
This situation creates, for the child of divorced parents, a moral universe presided over by a God who represents safety and a fallen angel so crazily in love with God’s children that he is willing to lie to them, tempt them with goodies, cheat them out of any chance at heaven, and put their lives at risk just for a chance to be as God to them, begging for their love and dragging them toward some parody of a utopia in which he is their ubiquitous benefactor. This Satan doesn’t really believe that he has a better deal to offer, but he so wants to believe it that he resorts to deceit, covert manipulation, and emotional blackmail in the process of wresting the child from the arms of God.
We see this fallen-angel element in Michael Riley’s penetrating portrayal of Derek; this preciousness, this sense of being too beautiful for this world. Derek, of all people, cannot accept being ousted from heaven, harbouring a love that is at bottom a cavernous emptiness. Like many neurotics, his boyish charm and lack of restraint are disarming; it is his adventurous spirit that makes him attractive enough to lure his young son from a safely ordered world into a nightmare.
The tragedy lies in Derek’s failed trajectory toward love. Derek talks down to the nine-year-old Will, just as he did in the early videos, and this is one early clue that things are not quite right here. (In an authentic spiritual journey one is never patronized, and being talked down to is often a sign that you’ve stepped off course.)
In the scenes where Derek is holding the camcorder and talking to his wife or son it is clear that the man is addicted to scenes and demonstrations of love while remaining completely stunned about what constitutes a healthy relationship.
One thing I’ve noticed about deeply gifted directors is that they strategically plant doubt in a way that flushes out deeper insights about the human condition. Derek is supposedly being paranoid when he suspects his ex-wife’s boyfriend of being a pedophile, but are his suspicions really unfounded? (Watching the way this boyfriend hovers over and caresses the sleeping boy is pretty creepy.)
Is Derek messed up or just responding normally to a situation (i.e., divorce) which, common as it is, is nearly unendurable to the sensitive soul?
Is Derek really too needy, or is he the uninhibited spokesperson for the universally human desire for unconditional love? And if he’s the spokesperson, doesn’t this make him a hero?
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