Rosenwood: Themes

Like my character work, I’d delved into the themes of Rosenwood but when I went back to the script months later, they seemed lacking. More shallow than I’d like. And a little ill-fitting.

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THEME

I’d originally narrowed down my theme to something like “responsibility vs play” because I recognized the struggle Kathy had was something to do with child-like qualities versus the adult responsibilities she’d accrued. And in a very rough sense, it worked in the script. But it’s not exactly something an audience can hold on to or feel because it was clunky in its expression and just not precisely the theme.

Something hit me about the story and what part of my own life I was trying to express. Here are those initial thoughts and ramblings.

“It’s a coming of age movie for adults. In the usual teen version, coming of age is the loss of innocence. But what happens when you’re an adult and at some point, reclaim a version of that innocence— simplicity— with the wisdom of humility, vulnerability, and creativity? It’s maturity, the loathsome “adulting”, but with a sense of humor, clarity, confidence, and ease. And some rites are big and some are little.

  • One of my various rites of passage was having a long-necessary conversation with my Mom about her divorce from my Dad and all the ways she’d inserted herself in my life (so I thought). I had to be humbled and hear her version of the events. And I had to accept her apology. It was a long crazy road trip to move all my stuff to Orlando right before my marriage to Nick. I didn’t know it was going to happen. I didn’t plan it. And I don’t remember what kicked off that conversation and made us follow it. But I definitely felt different on the other side.
  • Another one would probably be Thea’s hospital stay. It had been a month and I still hadn’t settled into two-kid mom life. I didn’t know what to make of my daughter. And then we were thrown into the hospital for four very long days. Something in me was re-centered, humbled, and I cherished my daughter with much more ease.
  • And I’d certainly say I had to face the effects of my parent’s divorce in a real way that perhaps culminated in a conversation with Nick after Augie had been born. The terror of repeating those mistakes and being part of the same cycle of destruction had been something I wanted to avoid at every cost. But I had to admit to him, this wasn’t the life I saw for myself. It was terrifying. I was miserable. And I had no idea where to go or how to proceed. His calm response to what would normally be an incredibly alarming conversation gave me space to step back and realize I could be a wife and mother but in my own way. It was a turning point in how I saw myself as a woman and how I contributed to the world around me. 

It’s LIFE kicking your ass until you look into the abyss and face what might be there. But as an adult, there’s so much freedom and lightness that comes from those experiences. It’s like after that initial teen rite of passage, you spend a lifetime accruing baggage you’re not equipped to face because you’ve forgotten how to handle it with the best qualities of a kid. And that has to be re-discovered. “

It was that third memory and some of my other notes that really got me down the road of how to think about Kathy’s conflict and how that conflict should be reflected in other characters. I needed to refine those thoughts and piece them out into various levels so I could keep the variations of theme straight in my head. Those levels turned into a spiritual/God/big picture level, world level, as a woman level, and a level as just Kathy.

Spiritual/God/Big Picture:
Transitions like the Hero’s Journey are echoes of God’s grace and movement in our lives. The adventure (or challenge/suffering) is the way through which he calls attention to something in ourselves that needs to be shed and something to be attained, both of which should draw us closer to Him, the being outside the story pushing the journey forward. It’s evidence he knows our hearts and showers us with favor that we have the room to grow without being obliterated by the story he’s set up. This specific story echoes the idea that simplicity through humility, vulnerability, and creativity are inherit in experiencing God and entrusting our whole selves to him. “The kingdom of heaven is of such ones as these.” (Jesus speaking of children in Matthew 19:14)

World Level:
“Coming of age” for adults is LIFE kicking your ass until you look into the abyss and face what might be there. But as an adult, there’s so much freedom and lightness that comes from those experiences. It’s like in some cases, after that initial teen rite of passage, you spend a lifetime accruing baggage you’re not equipped to face because you’ve forgotten how to handle it with the best qualities of a kid. And that has to be re-discovered. In this case, returning to a place of simplicity with humility, vulnerability, and creativity to better handle the broken world we live in and the challenges it throws at us. It also allows us to become elders that can properly help younger people who have yet to go through that transition to better handle life and eventually be a guide as they transition as well. 

Controlling Idea: Wisdom of life experience + simplicity experienced through humility, vulnerability, and creativity = maturity

As a woman:
This is a woman’s heroes journey into adulthood in that she needs to be given space and freedom by those she loves to explore what she’s lost and what she’s gaining. But she needs to see them stick around and not abandon her in the process. Security is necessary. She can be so afraid of losing that security and that companionship that she ignores very real problems until they become a barrier to the relationship anyway. 

As Kathy:
Kathy has been terrified of becoming the people she saw in the institution, people who are fundamentally messed up and in some ways take pleasure in it. She doesn’t ever want to be viewed by the world or see herself as one of those people and has gone to such lengths to avoid that scenario that she’s refused to acknowledge how miserable her current path in life makes her. When she finally faces her fear and remembers that she’s an incredibly creative, adventurous soul, she has to admit that her current life isn’t satisfying. But it also teaches her what’s important through the kidnapping of her kids and having Joe thrown into her world. She sees that she’s more satisfied by living a different life truer to herself WITH them than without them. She’s capable of resolving her past self with her present self to move forward into a more satisfying, mature chapter of living.

Every scene should now be colored with a much more specific hue of thematic expectation and hopefully, the audience will feel Kathy’s journey so much more clearly. I keep thinking this should be a movie for all ages. but maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s aimed at adults in their 30’s and 40’s who need to face something, process it, and move through it into a more satisfying adulthood. Frankly, I’m tired of all the memes and jokes about “adulting.” That dread is a horrible way to live. But taking life too seriously can be just as dangerous.

I hope I can convey all these thoughts clearly in my script. They’re the distilled feelings and moments that inspired it from the beginning. And they encompass something very real and important in my life– a culmination of suffering, fear, truth, relief, and new beginnings.