The movie Gran Torino directed and starring Clint Eastwood, is a movie set in modern day Detroit with the character Walter Kowalski, a grumpy stubborn senior who is refusing to move away from his home in the suburban area of Detroit despite the fact that the neighbourhood is not the one he knew. There are many themes throughout the movie such as Redemption, Racism, Culture, Entitlement, and Death. But today I want to focus on the theme of family.
During the film we get to see Walt’s family. His son, his wife, and his two spoiled children. His family being distant due to the son being distant already with Walt. The wife clearly dosen’t like him and looks at him as nothing more than a jewellery box that has an open date. The daughter entitled and bratty eyes Walt’s belongings like a vulture before he eventually kicks the bucket. The grandson… well he’s not really in focus during this movie.
All in all. Walt has a dysfunctional family that couldn’t give a rat’s ass if he died. So little do they care that they feel like interacting with him is a chore. They also are blantantly oblivious to when to bring up subjects as seen on Walt’s birthday when they talk about putting him in a home. Pretty sure any father wouldn’t take kindly to their child pushing to put you in a home on their birthday. They could have brought this up at any different times. But that’s impossible. Because outside of family gatherings, they don’t interact with him giving them no chances to tell him at a more appropriate time. They expect that he will take this revelation on his birthday of all times.
Suffice to say, Walt doesn’t take kindly to his son’s suggestion, and kicks him out. He’s sitting on his porch, chugging down beer while looking around the neighbourhood with bitterness. That is until one of the more important characters in the movie Sue, invites him over. Reluctant at first, he eventually comes over, and discovers he has more in common with them than his own family. This is not something Walt expected to say the least. They are respectful and traditional, and they take great pride in that. So much so that they force Thao another main character to help Walt out much to his dismay.
Now let’s talk about Thao. He’s a well-mannered, and insecure Hmong teenager that has his antagonistic cousin try to push him into a life of crime. He stays out of it for the most part until he was pushed far enough that he tried to steal a car. And whose car was that? Walt. To say the relationship is not off to a good start is an understatement.
But Walt takes a liking to the well mannered Asian. He tries to toughen him up by egging him on to try and invite the girl he likes out. Their relationships develop. Walt lets him borrow his tools. He helps him out with work. And he even let’s Thao use his Gran Torino! Something that is of high value to Walt. Why does he do that? Because Thao is special to him.
Walt did something with Thao that he didn’t do with his son. Bond with him. See his perspective. Make him understand him. That’s what Thao is to Walt. Something he should have done. A right to a wrong. A son. But not only did Walt find a son. Walt also found a community amongst the Hmong. He starts out rejecting their gifts, but eventually he relents and lets them stay.
In conclusion. While we can’t decide who we are born to, we can decide who’s family. For example longtime friend can be seen as an uncle in some cultures. A teacher can be a strong encouraging parent.
It isn’t blood that’s important, but rather the people around you.