The film club

by David Gilmour

Paper Book, 2008




New York : Twelve, 2008.


A warmly witty account of the three years a man spent teaching life lessons to his high school dropout son by showing him the world's best (and occasionally worst) films. At the start of this brilliantly unconventional family memoir, David Gilmour is an unemployed movie critic trying to convince his fifteen-year-old son Jesse to do his homework. When he realizes Jesse is beginning to view learning as a loathsome chore, he offers his son an unconventional deal: Jesse could drop out of school, not work, not pay rent - but he must watch three movies a week of his father's choosing. Week by week, side by side, father and son watched everything from True Romance to Rosemary's Baby to Showgirls, and films by Akira Kurosawa, Martin Scorsese, Brian DePalma, Billy Wilder, among others. The movies got them talking about Jesse's life and his own romantic dramas, with mercurial girlfriends, heart-wrenching breakups, and the kind of obsessive yearning usually seen only in movies. Through their film club, father and son discussed girls, music, work, drugs, money, love, and friendship - and their own lives changed in surprising ways.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member KC_in_KS
The beginning was interesting, the ending poignant. The middle seriously dragged. I get that the book's about a father staying close to his son during his launch from the "nest", but do we really need every single detail of the son's teenage love affairs? Also, there was one tidbit that got under
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my skin. Father and Son denigrate one of the girlfriends for being so terribly career-oriented, yet the author mentions several times that his wife' 9-to-5 job kept the bills paid while his film-reviewer career stalled. Did Gilmore not see the irony, or did he inadvertently reveal an unflattering aspect of his own character?
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LibraryThing member ebnelson
A near-perfect exhibition of the impotence of the Boomer ideal of tolerant love—especially when cast against the raunchy pop culture of the modern youth. The memoir starts with a 16th century quote identifying the mysterious challenge of educating youth. It was an encouraging start. Then it
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became apparent that the author took the quote as evidence of the inability for a father to raise his son well, instead of a as a challenge to courageously lead his son against ancient forces of youthful apathy, libido, and purposelessness.

On behalf of film lovers, I commend his premise to teach through film. Though when thinking of parents who may uncritically admire Gilmour, I shutter. On behalf of those who take education seriously, I'm offended. Home schooling is hard, noble work. I applaud Gilmour for his willingness to look outside the box of contemporary education which is killing our youth, but rather than fight for his son, he sits back and hopes that conversation without leadership or inspiration will stop the malaise that is slowly draining his teen's soul.

Sadly, there is little to admire contained in its pages.
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LibraryThing member CKPLreads
What an intersting way to learn about film criticism. it made me want to go back and look at the movies mentioned all over again. Prior to reading this book I didn't think a child should be allowed to drop-out of high-school but this special father son relaltionship provided its own education.
LibraryThing member Girl_Detective
A memoir of Canadian novelist (NOT Pink Floyd guitarist and vocalist) David Gilmour, who lets his 15yo son Jesse drop out of school if he agrees to watch three movies a week together. So begins a wild adventure in parenting. Gilmour's unconventional, anti-film-snob approach to movies that probably
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helped their film club to work for the next few years. More than a movie memoir, it’s one of parenting, as Gilmour coaxes Jesse through some typically disastrous adolescent romances. Gilmour won’t be nominated for parent of the year anytime, but he’s got the critical basics down: empathy, honesty, and the ability to apologize, all of which he relates with humor and self-effacement in this winning book.
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LibraryThing member tjsjohanna
This book is interesting in that there are at least two different levels of things going on here. On one level, there are funny, insightful, and intelligent comments on a multitude of films - why the are significant, and even scenes to watch for. On another level, there is a dad seeking to figure
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out how to maintain a relationship with his son who has given up on school - not only keep a relationship, but somehow help steer this child in a direction that doesn't doom him forever to "driving a taxicab" (the author's words, not mine). On yet another level, this is the story of a boy becoming a man, seen from the viewpoint of an older, more experienced man. I like books that offer so much! Things that were mildly offensive - a liberal use of profanity, and casual reference to the son's drinking, sex, and very occasional drug use. I admire the author's son for letting his father put so much of himself out there for the readers - very brave. And as a parent, I found the care with which the author negotiated his relationship with his son very touching.
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LibraryThing member andreablythe
When David Gilmour, a Canadian writer and film critic, begins to see that his son hates school and learning with it, he decides to take an unconventional approach to parenting. He makes a deal. His son can drop out of school, doesn't have to work, and can come and go as he pleases, as long as he
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agrees to watch three films a week with his father.

I am always fascinated by alternative approaches to teaching. The public school system's cookie cutter approach to education is bound to fail for some kids, which means that otherwise intelligent and good kids get lost along the way.

Gilmour's son falls into that category, and although he writes about him in a rose colored glasses kind of way at the beginning of the book, he presents an interesting journey in which father and son use movies as a form a communication, relating to one another, and as a form of intellectual pursuit. Multiple life challenges come up for both father and son, including the loss of a job and the loss of love (as well as Gilmour's doubts as to whether he is doing right by his son), but movies offer a way of connection and catharsis throughout. Overall an entertaining book.
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LibraryThing member omphalos02
I was surprised by how much I liked this book, how much I looked forward to the time I could get back to reading it. Although I did not necessarily agree with all of the author's comments and reviews of the films discussed, I was fascinated and drawn in to his "experiment" with his son. It ended
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way too soon for me.
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LibraryThing member BookinKim
If you like movies, you will like this book. Join a father and his adolescent son as they embark on a non-traditional educational experience guessed it - watching films. Although I am not a huge movie buff, this book offered many suggestions to start my own movie education. I could not
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put this book down because I needed to find out what happens!
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LibraryThing member vgnunez
This book is pretty good as a light read. It provides insight into father-son relationships, which I've never given much thought to but now I've become intrigued by (due to this novel). The premise David Gilmour sets before his son at the beginning of the book (namely, drop out of school and watch
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movies as a form of education) seems completely unrealistic and if I had read it in a novel instead of memoir I would think of concept as clever but entirely fictional. And Gilmour even notes that he had reservations about his decision... but the concept allows him to get closer to his son and better understand him.
So, in the end, what it lacks in poetic prose it makes up for in heart.
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LibraryThing member treelf
The years from adolescence to adulthood can very challenging as one navigates the road from dependency to independence. Writer and film critic David Gilmour connects with his son at this critical time through a venue he knows well - the movies. Over three years David and his son watch a movie
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together a couple of times a week. The book is a tender memoir of a parent letting go, and a personal guide to seminal films of the 20th century.
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LibraryThing member TimBazzett
Enjoyed The Film Club very much, and envied the closeness the author managed to establish with his teenage son, however fleeting. Those are hard years for all fathers and sons - and daughters. Gilmour's method of bridging the gap was certainly a unique one, and risky too. I wondered, after
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finishing the book, how Jesse is doing these days. I'm sending this book to my son, now 40, with a note telling him I miss him, and wish I hadn't been working so hard during those years, and emotionally absent from his life. I am thankful that my own kids seem to have turned out okay. I have five grandkids now. I'll recommend The Film Club to all and sundry.
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LibraryThing member Alirambles
David Gilmour was afraid for his son. Jesse was miserable in high school, and Gilmour's attempts to help were creating a rift between them. "You've lost the school battle," the author, in an interview with CBC TV, recalls his wife (Jesse's stepmother) telling him. "Don't lose the kid."

In an act of
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desperation, Gilmour offers his 15 year old a deal: if you'll watch three movies of my choosing per week with me, you can quit school. Jesse agrees, and the Film Club is born.

Thus begins the process of unschooling (or deschooling): Gilmour picks DVDs that contain what he thinks his son most needs. At times the focus is on film production, good writing or good acting. Other times, he picks a theme to fit the issues Jesse is dealing with in real life. Surprisingly, given that Gilmour is a former film critic, The Film Club gives a fairly superficial treatment of the movies themselves. Jesse himself seems less interested in his dad's opinions about movies, than his reassurances and reflections about girls, about what makes a real man, and whether Jesse's becoming one.

For homeschooling parents or those considering pulling their kids out of school, Gilmour's film choices may not be the best guide. (Showgirls but not Schindler's List? The Texas Chainsaw Massacre but not The Tuskegee Airmen? Robocop but not Roots?) But as a portrait of a father-son relationship in transition from adolescence into adulthood, this memoir is at once poignant, heartwarming, and distressing. (see full review at Worducopia)
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LibraryThing member enetikovt
I only skimmed the book but good read if requiring unique view to parenting a rebellious teen.
LibraryThing member sanddancer
I love cinema myself so was really looking forward to reading this book. But I was left rather disappointed. There isn't really that much in the book about the films they write, we don't learn much about the son's opinions on the films and I don't think the film club idea actually contributes to
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the son's development at all. There is however quite a bit of detail about the father's employement status that I didn't care about one way or another, and yet there is no mention of his daughter in the whole book apart from the acknowledgements in the back.

It was an easy read and I did want to know what happened to the son, but perhaps I'd rather have heard it from him, as I found the father irritating.
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LibraryThing member lildrafire
I found David Gilmour's story of his son's unconventional education sickly-sweet, almost poignant, and somewhat pointless. I don't feel Gilmour ever gets to the "meat" of the story, but just touches the surface here and there. It almost felt as if Gilmour wanted to write a book extrapolating his
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favorite films, but didn't want it to be gratuitous, so made it into a "schooling affair" with his son. This book could have been much more.
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LibraryThing member kanata
Utterly neutral on this book. I can see the pros and cons of Gilmour's decision to let his troubled son quit school and watch films with his dad. As someone who struggled mightily with not fitting in a organized school system I relate to the futility of forcing formal education on those who it
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doesn't fit. However, I question the idea of Gilmour being the one to provide the alternative mainly because he comes across as quite egotistical and really has a viewpoint on women that I would hate to see passed on to his son. But combining all these pros and cons I'm just left feeling meh about the book. An interesting idea that I would have liked to see executed better but at least Gilmour acknowledges he was flying by the seat of his pants and had doubts about the whole thing too.
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LibraryThing member SimonLarsen
Heart-warming story about a father and his teenage son and the years they spend together watching 3 movie a week.

The book suffers a bit in the middle where David Gilmore goes into a sort of "... and then... and then..." rant that could have used some harder editing.

But all in all, it's a great book
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in itself and a great book on how to reach out to your children and especially to teenagers.
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LibraryThing member goodinthestacks
This book had a concept that intrigued me and I thought I would give it a shot. A father lets his son quit school if he promises to watch movies with him. I thought there would be in depth discussions about different films and things of that nature and that is what hooked me.

The book is a quick,
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fun read, but there was not much talk about the movies themselves. The writing is crisp and I did end up caring about the father and son and how their relationship went, but I was not satisfied completely because of the lack of movie talk. David Gilmour was very candid with the reader and with his son, and his son was candid with his father. The openess that they had with each other was inspiring and also terrifying. I'm a rather private person when it comes to most of my thoughts and feelings, so seeing this kind of relationship where almost anything could be said was interesting.

The book made me think about my relationship with my own father, and in that respect, the book succeeded, but as far as joining the "film club" goes, it seems like outsiders aren't privy to most of their thoughts of the films they watched.
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LibraryThing member pescatello
David Gilmour lets his son 16 year old son Jesse drop out of school. The catch to this agreement is Jesse has to watch three movies a week with his dad. Gilmour was once CBC's TV movie critic through most of the 90s and puts together quite a movie curriculum. The bizarre situation is the
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interesting to watch and as a movie lover, i was really excited to read the book. I was also pleasantly surprised about the father/son relationship described.

The discussions about the movies in the book aren't long enough but they are quite interesting and it covers quite a long list of films. Some classics and some recent hits. I really liked hearing his thoughts on the films and i actually rented and watched a few of his recommendations.

The relationship between David and Jesse is the strangest part. It's not at all what i would want with my son but then again i don't have one so i can't really talk. It sounded like a pretty rough situation and while it seems to have turned out well, some of the decisions seem pretty asinine.

If you're a lover of movies, it's worth plowing through this as it's short and light. If not, i wouldn't recommend it.
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LibraryThing member coolmama
Lovely, single sitting book.
Dad David allows his 16 year old son to drop out of school with the agreement that they watch 3 films a week.
This book shows the relationship that develops between them.
Really charming.
LibraryThing member snooker68
I had to think about this book in two sections.

One section is a man who decides that the best way to educate his teenage son would be to allow him to quit school, then try to teach him about life through movies.

The second part is a man with an interesting take on movies.

Several thoughts:

As far as
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I am concerned, the idea of allowing your kid to quit school is ... well, a little goofy. But then I am not a parent, and I have no place from which to talk. It just is about the LAST thing I would have done, I guess.

If I were writing the book I think I would have found something else fill one third of a book rather than teen hormones and agony over the boy's girlfriends.

What I did like was the trip down film lane with a man who obviously loves them. THIS made it worth the time spent reading through the girlfriend crap.
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LibraryThing member hairballsrus
Canadian author David Gilmour agrees to let his fifteen-year-old son drop out of school on one condition: Jesse must sit down and watch films with his father three times a week. Part memoir, part movie trivia, part intro to French New Wave, this book was an entertaining easy read. It really hasn't
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any great insights, except to say if you stay in touch with your kids, your kids will come to you with their troubles. It's obvious the author loves his son and the three years of the "Film Club" created a bond between them that wouldn't otherwise exist. It isn't the films, but the conversations between father and son that keep their relationship grounded. Jesse could so easily have drifted away, but David Gilmour wouldn't allow that.

Jesse's "girl troubles", while annoying, really keep the feel of the memoir authentic. The ending is a bit rushed though. Jesse's problems are solved off stage so to speak.

I would be interested in read a book by this author focusing solely on his love of films. He has some funny things to say.
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LibraryThing member Ron18
The book deserves a lot of the criticism I'm seeing on Goodreads. People who like it seem less compelled to say why than those who don't.

I'll take a minute to tell you why I like it. It's an examination of a desperate father having a second (or in this author's case, maybe a 4th or 5th) mid-life
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crisis. He's overly involved in his son's post-adolescent coming of age, and clinging to it in an unhealthy way - in fact, he's likely making it much harder on his son... all while seemingly, genuinely, seeking to be a good dad. He comes across as a sort of youth and masculinity vampire. It's desperate and a thing to behold. This is a man with some serious difficulty with women and feeling comfortable in his own skin... but you know what? That's a LOT of men - and he's at least willing to examine it and confess to the trouble (to some degree - a lot of his failings are only under examination when you read between the lines). It's a struggle that kills guys all the time - we should look at it more closely, or we'll continue seeing guys kill themselves mid-life, like salmon who have finished spawning.

While David congratulates himself for leaving certain interaction to Jesse and his peers... he does so while fostering the most iron clad dependence I've ever seen described between a parent and child. Dependence that the son only succeeds in escaping from when he abandons the entire experiment the book is describing (without abandoning his gains - namely, specialist knowledge to be an informed critic, a job his father is grooming him for in a transparent attempt to hijack his son's interests and imprint himself on the boy as hard as possible in the last remaining years of the son's reliance on his parents).

But I like the book.

You don't have to like characters to like a book. You can learn a lot from someone who's living very differently than yourself, and who has glaring flaws (this author has a troubling view of women, beyond understandably taking his son's side when things go wrong with his relationships).

When you confess to the fact that your boy turns to you, fearful that his feelings emasculate him - and you dispel that fear while reinforcing it with everything else you do... it paints a picture of the condition of masculinity in our culture, and the microcosm of the family. A framework that is fraught with hypocrisy and ugliness. A propping up of male ego at the expense of women.

Career, education, and aspiration are all described pejoratively against women, while these attributes are being sought for his son. Everything he wants for his son, he rejects in his son's female peers. It's stark. That doesn't make the examination invalid.

I hope David and Jesse can escape the prisons they've inherited. They're said to almost kill the kid repeatedly through the book... and yet are never recognized (by the characters) as hazardous constructions of their own making. An honest look at a tragic state of being.

edit to add:
I'm downgrading the book to 3 stars (from 4). Much of the work's value as layered revelation about the faults of it's author are too subtle to accurately characterize him - and I don't want to imply that the book's virtue is in the face-value content of the book itself.
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LibraryThing member mlake
I don't really know what to say about the meat of this memoir. I picked up this book because I was interested in the movies and what David had to say about them. I am not a father, or a son so I did not identify with the relationship and I still can't believe that he let his son drop out of high
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school. I do now have a list of the 100 movies they watched, and plan to add a few to my list of things to see.
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LibraryThing member Cecilturtle
What do you do when your 16-year old wants to drop out of high school? Gilmour made the tough decision to pull him out and educate him the way he knew how: through movies. This courageous, sincere tale describes a parent's agony watching his son grow up, make mistakes, get hurt. It shows striking
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the balance between interfering, listening and letting go. There are tender moments, passionate accounts of films bonding father and son and tales of fear and love.
The sore points are the numerous chapters dedicated to Jesse's girl friends which I found rather annoying and belly aching. I would have been more interested in finding out about how his jobs and the movies matured him.
Overall, a very well-written account which will have you running to your local video store.
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