#Film Review: Netflix’s Public Schooled (2018)

Director: Kyle Rideout

Rating: 4/5

This film is a cheerful portrayal of a very serious issue. The issue portrayed is an emotional enmeshment, or a situation in which parent is over-involved with the child’s life by treating child as a partner. According to one of many definitions, enmeshment can be defined in the following way,

“While many families value closeness and intimacy, enmeshment goes beyond the bonds of a close family. Enmeshment may mean a parent centers their actions or emotions on the children) and their successes or mistakes, attempts to know and direct all of the child’s thoughts or feelings, and relies heavily on the children) for emotional support. Enmeshment can be problematic because it can prevent people from developing a sense of self, engaging in peer relationships, and learning to self-regulate emotions. Children of enmeshed families may also experience diminished distress tolerance and find it difficult to assert themselves later in life.” (link to the quoted article)

While it is usually fathers who are accused of enmeshing their daughters by creating daddy’s little princesses, it is obviously also mothers who do this. Most commonly they do it to their sons, as this film portrays, but it can happen with daughters. I am glad that this issue has been raised in a film, because it is indeed a sign of patriarchy when popular culture and society only portray men as abusers and ignore the fact women can be abusive too. That type of portrayal is not helpful to victims or society in general, because it reinforces old prejudices that women are emotional and nurturing and thus inclined to be mothers. This could not be more wrong, as not every woman wants to be a mother nor is every woman a good mother either.

The film is well made and it shows all issues enmeshed children deal with when they have to spend more time with their parent than their peers, adore their parent too much, fulfill parent’s ambitions, and even take them with them when they go to study elsewhere, etc.

The film thus portrays Liam (Daniel Doheny) and his mother Claire (Judy Greer). Claire is home schooling Liam arguing that the public schooling cannot give him the same quality education she can. While she is arguably right, because her son does have a remarkable knowledge, what he misses is a social contact with his peers and an ability to socialise with the rest of the society. Thus, when he goes to school to pass a public test to enter college, he sees a girl he likes and he changes answers on purpose to fail the test, and in order to stay in school. This causes rage of his overprotective mother who wants him to have an academic career in Cambridge only but she accepts it. However, she finds a way to get over-involved in this as well by participating in his rebellion (e.g. when he finally puts the doors back to his room) by showing him how to party, drink and smoke marijuana. She does not look with sympathies on his flirting with the girl he likes or his independence, and does her utter most to prevent him from staying in public school. When he ultimately leaves the school (through administrative issues) she is happy he is going to college, but by then she has started to date a school’s principal and has a life of her own, so she lets her son go and promises to visit him only.

The happy ending is very rare in real life situations; however, it is not a bad thing that the director portrayed it this way because in cases where the parent is not a sociopath it can show the parent what he or she is doing wrong and that they need to have a life of their own instead of enmeshing their child. What I did not like is overly humorous character of the film and the stupidity of the idea that a boy can replace a girl everyone thinks died and then he has to take her classes and do what she used to do, as well as being called Maria. This was an unnecessary and unrealistic portrayal of public schools as complete idiots, and it does not help in getting otherwise serious message across. Someone who have never spotted this issue of overly involved parents who treat their children as partners and prevent them from having a life of their own, may not think whether they know something like this happening elsewhere, because they will simply not take the matter seriously. Other than this, it is a good film worth watching.

Thank you for reading.

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