Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Fathers Always Want Their Sons To Do Well: Not

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on April 9, 2012

“Footnote” describes the dynamics between fathers and sons, where the idealized version of a father who wants to see his son flourish is dismissed quickly. From the first scene, we see the bitterness and resentment that the father has for his successful son. On the one hand, why should this come as a surprise? As a species we tend to feel better when we perceive ourselves as “ahead” and we feel worse when we think we are “less than”. On the other hand, there is a notion that our children are extensions of us, and hence their accomplishment is a reflection on us, hence parents would be proud of the success in their children. Both are true and both are at play, in some measure,  all of the time.

This movie depicts the former scenario in which father and son are rivalrous, perhaps for the love of the wife/mother, as Freud might say. What was charming about this flawed movie was that it felt so real. The accomplishments of the son led to bitterness in the father which led the son to feel bad about himself. No one was happy. As long as they needed to please each other, there would be no joy or fulfillment. Their connection prohibited them from seeing outside of themselves, and hence they were stuck in a very negative place. There was no happy ending.

I would like to think that therapy would have helped all of them. Actually, I feel pretty sure that psychotherapy for any of the pained family members would have helped them separate and see themselves as worthwhile human beings independent of the disappointment experienced by the other. Without psychotherapy, this family seemed stuck in a pattern in which negativity kept spreading wider and wider. It was a depressing movie, representing a depressing family. As expected, the third generation was also afflicted with this disease of disappointment. Like a malignancy, without intervention, it kept spreading. In an odd way, the movie endorsed my profession. For that, I recommend it.

2 Responses to “Fathers Always Want Their Sons To Do Well: Not”

  1. Shelly said

    Other than an endorsement of your profession, why would the average moviegoer want to see a depressing movie? Yes, most parents would want their children to do better than themselves. We do not see our children as extensions of ourselves but surely we do not want our children to make the same mistakes as we have and we don’t want them to relive the hardships that we’ve been through. The fact that the movie brings to life conflict and rivalry between parent and child so manifest in so many parent-child relationships doesn’t really make me want to run out and see the movie!

    • Hi Shelly,
      You may not want to see the movie, although it is made in your country. Some folks, enjoy seeing movie about family dynamics, no matter how depressing they may be. To use a platitude, it is certainly not everyone’s cup of tea. Thanks.

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