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Review of "Pop & Me"

By Chris Roe (Director)
MGM, 1999
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Jan 5th 2005
Pop & Me

The basic idea behind Pop & Me seems pretty clear: Chris Roe and his recently divorced father Richard go around the world interviewing fathers and sons about their relationship to find common threads. But it soon becomes clear that one of the main questions of the film is whether they will be able to finish their journey with their own relationship intact. Richard seems to be a domineering character, but quite emotionally open. We see him visit the grave of his own father, and he admits that he didn't go to the funeral. His father was a chronic alcoholic and spent the last several decades of his life in a Long Island institution unable to look after himself. Richard starts crying when he describes his reunion with his father shortly after his divorce, when he told his father that he had been a lousy son for never visiting all the time he had been in the institution, and then his father had a brief moment of coherence and tells him that he forgives him. It's a powerful moment early in the film and prepares the viewer for the many other moments of emotional honesty about the sometimes difficult relationships between fathers and sons.

On their journey Chris and Richard bicker and complain about each other. They even do this, to a lesser extent, on the DVD commentary. One question that gets raised is whether they can be as open and warm to each other as the people they interview, and although the film ends on a high note, it isn't so clear that they can. What they do achieve is to examine and negotiate what it means to be a good father and a good son, something that all men have to face.

Somehow on their way they manage to find some great father-son pairs. One Islamic man who normally acts with a great deal of machismo tears up when his son tells the camera how much he loves his father. Another father, a South African white, apologizes to his son for his years of alcoholism and his son in return tells his father how proud he is of him, and they tearfully hug. A father of a son with cognitive problems confesses to the camera that there were times when his purposefully was nasty to his son when provoked by his son's behavior. His son says little but seems to understand. An Indian man records a message of love to his father for the filmmakers to show him, and when they do, his response is very restrained, suggesting he is very uncomfortable with demonstrating his feelings of love outwardly.

Chris and Richard are not necessarily the most likable pair in the world, but it is the friction between them and their own blind spots that heightens their fallibility and makes it easier to identify with them. This movie has an amateurish feel to it, but it holds together well and the reality of the moments captured between all the fathers and sons adds to its emotional strength. Looking at the unimpressive DVD cover you approach it with low expectations, only to end up surprisingly moved.




2005 Christian Perring. All rights reserved. 


Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online Review.  His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.