WHEN: 7:49 pm EST, February 20th, 2013
WHERE: In the living room of Sarah’s place in Portland, ME
FORMAT: DVD on a 48″ Samsung HDTV
PHYSICAL AND MENTAL STATE: I’m comfortably ensconced on Sarah’s couch with some awesome snacks. She hasn’t seen The NeverEnding Story in a long time, so I’m excited to see what she thinks. All she remembers is “the big flying thing.” I assume she means Falkor. I’m also excited to eat some nachos.
REACTIONS OF NOTE:
- During Bastian’s breakfast, Sarah wonders if The NeverEnding Story came out during the era of excessive product placement. Everything in the scene has its label pointed towards the camera.
- What happened to Bastian’s mom? I always thought she died of cancer when I was a kid. There’s nothing in the movie to suggest this, but it seemed like the only way someone could die tragically when I was young.
- Sarah points out the mammatus clouds as the Nothing approaches. They are commonly seen before tornadoes. Good job, cloud unit. Oh, and Sarah is qualified to make this observation since she happens to be a meteorologist.
- Sarah thinks that Noah Hathaway (Atreyu) is a better actor than Barret Oliver (Bastian). I can agree. Oliver has less opportunity to stretch his acting chops, but Hathaway nails every scene he’s in. Tami Stronach (Childlike Empress) also doesn’t get enough credit for her fabulous and subtle performance.
- Apparently the band Bayside has a song called “They Looked Like Strong Hands.” Sarah thinks the title comes from the Rockbiter.
There’s something that’s been bothering me since my first viewing: Bastian’s dad. Bastian’s dad is infuriating. I tried to find a clip of the whole breakfast scene, but nobody on the internet thinks it’s worthy of uploading. And I don’t blame them. It would be an example of how not to parent a child and there’s enough of that on television as it is. Also, before I go further, Bastian’s dad has no name. Not in the film or in the book. This is frustrating since I can’t keep writing “Bastian’s dad” over and over. So, from this point on I will refer to Bastian’s dad as BD (Bad Dad) when necessary.
While at breakfast, Bastian reveals to his father that he had another dream about his mom. Further dialogue reveals that she died, most likely in the recent past. Bastian shares this with his dad in order to gain some comfort. Bastian is probably expecting a sincere “I miss her, too.” Instead, BD says, “I understand, son. But we have to get on with things, right?” That’s just cold, BD. Bastian lowers his head and remains silent, realizing the conversation is not going the way he hoped. The tone BD uses implies that he understands his son is a pussy who can’t get over his beloved mother’s death. BD continues his poor excuse for a pep talk saying, “Bastian, we each have our responsibilities. We can’t let mom’s death be an excuse for not getting the old job done, right?” Let those words sink in for a moment.
“At least you understand me, Wonder Bread.”
It’s okay, Bastian, your grief means nothing to your father. Ugh. BD then akwardly tries to diffuse the situation since he might need to discuss feelings. He moves on to listing all of Bastian’s recent failings. Bastian has been drawing in his math book and turning in homework late. BD is disappointed that Bastian didn’t try out for the swim team and doesn’t want any riding lessons. Instead of seeing these things as a sign that Bastian is not handling his mother’s death well, BD thinks he’s bonding with his dejected son. He wraps up his belittlement session by reminding Bastian, “Stop daydreaming and start facing your problems.” Except that Bastian is facing his problems. The whole scene began with Bastian admitting that he’s still having dreams about his mother. Some children would hide this from their parent, afraid of upsetting them by bringing up a tender subject. Not Bastian. He wants his dad to know that he’s thinking of his mom. That’s called facing the problem.
BD wraps up the conversation saying, “Right. I think we’ve had a nice little talk. We should have more.” He then whisks away while reminding Bastian not to be late for school again. I don’t think Bastian should have any of these kinds of talks with his dad again. BD is completely blind to all of Bastian’s non-verbal cues that things are not okay. BD’s lack of good parental skills is highlighted by other clues during breakfast. BD makes his own meal, but Bastian is left to have milk, bread, and butter for breakfast. Since BD leaves so quickly, we can also assume that Bastian is in charge of making his own lunch. And Bastian is also responsible for getting himself to school, which his dad already mentioned hasn’t been going well.
“Where the hell am I?”
The poor parenting doesn’t end at breakfast. Even though BD never shows up again, his non-presence is further evidence of his deficiencies. Bastian stays at school after it closes. Since he’s only about halfway finished with The NeverEnding Story, this means that he stays in the attic for about five more hours. Assuming school is dismissed at the standard 3:00 pm, Bastian remains at school until approximately 8:oo pm. And his father never notices. Also, most schools notify parents that their child is absent. Since Bastian never attends class and never passes an “Excused” note to anyone, BD should receive a phone call asking where his son is. Even if we ignore this plot hole, BD should still be home before 8:00 pm. I get that a scene of BD frantically making phone calls would break the pacing of the story, but it’s also conspicuously absent. Since the film takes time to introduce BD, it feels odd that he’s missing from the end. Even the bullies get to bookend the story. Which reminds me; the bullies are wearing different clothes at the end, which means that it’s at least the next day when Bastian shows up in the real world. But BD still hasn’t noticed that his son is missing?
I know I’ve been raving about BD and his poor parenting skills, but I want to make sure that his character isn’t completely villainized. If we take a closer look at him, we can see that BD isn’t completely awful, he’s just cluelessly fumbling through parenthood. BD has been thrust into the role of “single parent” while also still dealing with the death of Bastian’s mother. Since this is the ’80s, I’m going to assume that the two were still married. Anyways, it’s obvious that BD hasn’t moved on, either. He’s attempting to be a strong and stable influence on Bastian because he thinks that’s what Bastian needs. When Bastian mentions his dream, BD pauses. He does have feelings, but I surmise that he suffers from stereotypical male syndrome, thinking that all emotions should be pushed far down and just not dealt with until they go away on their own. Emotional retardation is a flaw, but it doesn’t mean that BD doesn’t care for his son. Now that he’s a single parent, I get that BD is probably working longer to make up for the loss of income. And Bastian is old enough to make his lunch and get himself to school. However, BD doesn’t understand that these simple tasks may prove more difficult while Bastian is still coming to terms with his mother’s death. Finally, BD is providing Bastian with all the necessities. His three-piece suit suggests he has a well-paying job. Bastian isn’t unclean or malnourished. His basic needs are being met, but not his emotional ones.
Every time I endure the breakfast scene, I want to throttle BD and tell him that it’s okay to be emotionally vulnerable to his grieving son. It’s my frustration that makes me dislike him. Then, I think about BD’s side of things and I feel pity for the guy. He’s lost his wife and is raising a kid while having the emotional capacity of a walnut. I like to think that Bastian’s adventures help him grow enough to find a connection with his father while also finding closure to his mother’s death. I know I should be focusing on Fantasia’s salvation from the brink of destruction, but Bastian needs some love, too.
“How does a lifetime of therapy due to our emotionally stunted relationship sound, champ?”