Blog Directory CineVerse: A lesson in family planning

A lesson in family planning

Thursday, May 23, 2019

There have been countless movies depicting the struggle of unwed teenage mothers-to-be, and chances are that one is playing right now on Lifetime or The Hallmark Channel. But for a refreshingly different take, with a satisfying Irish flavor added, turn to Stephen Frears' 1993 under-the-radar effort "The Snapper," which tackles this subject in quite the upfront manner. Here are some of the conclusions we reached at CineVerse after viewing the film:

What struck you as memorable, touching or surprising about this movie?

  • There is no slow or gradual buildup to the central conflict; the film opens straight away with the daughter’s revelation to her parents that she’s pregnant.
  • It handles the topic of teen/young adult pregnancy with surprising candor, honesty, empathy and originality. Here we have a young woman who lives in a large Irish family in a small town—not a single expectant mother living on her own or in a big urban metro.
  • This is arguably less a tale about unexpected pregnancy than about familial relationships and its dynamics and challenges.
  • Despite the fact that there are a lot of characters and family members to sort through, the filmmakers focus smartly on the father and the daughter, whose relationship serve as the heart of the story.
    • The characters are also quite colorful and credible. Roger Ebert wrote: “These characters understand human nature. Look, for example, at the relationship between Sharon and her father in this film. He treats her like a good friend, does not condescend to her femininity or her pregnancy, and is less concerned with "appearances" than with fairness. He and his wife are, in fact, model parents, although that is not always evident in the chaos of their small home, in which up to 10 people have to share the same bathroom. Crowded together without privacy, their strategy is to live in public; the whole family shares everything.”
  • The movie cleverly balances comedy and drama, shifting between tones nicely and touching on both the comedic aspects as well as the poignant, emotional and conflict aspects. This could have been a much more serious and solemn film; but it wisely tries to make us laugh as much as possible.
  • There is a surprising amount of profanity used throughout the picture, which often makes it funnier. However, it’s a bit hard to believe that this was a made-for-television film and presumably wasn’t edited for TV audiences in the UK.
Themes at work in The Snapper:
  • The value and importance of unconditional family love
  • The danger of secrets and lies in a small town
  • The ability of simple, common folk to rise above challenges when they work together
  • The shame and stigma placed on individuals who fall outside the boundaries of what some communities consider socially acceptable
  • Single motherhood is challenging; these parents need all the help they can get.
Other films that The Snapper brings to mind include:
  • The Commitments and The Van; these other films are taken from stories in novelist Roddy Doyle’s “Barrytown Trilogy”; The Snapper is the second of Doyle’s books.
  • Other Irish and British dramedies, including Happy Ever Afters, Circle of Friends, My Family and Other Animals, and Waking Ned Devine
  • Similar movies about teen or young adult pregnancy, such as Juno, For Keeps, Where the Heart Is, and Unexpected
  • Sixteen Candles, which also depicts a chaotic household yet a father who is very supportive of his troubled teenage daughter.

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