Table of contents

Blood father

A story about sacrifice

John Link is a recovering alcoholic. His two-year sobriety is his exile from America. He got out of prison; he’s in the California desert; he does tattoos. Everything else he knows or knew is either lost, dead, or illegal. One wonders whether he has any reason to live, except discipline. He’s a man contemplating the failure of American freedom–his failure. He has only one hope left.

His daughter seems to have taken after him early–flouting family & school & laws, making one bad decision after another, ending up with a vaguely romantic drug kingpin’s cousin who murders people out of cowardice, but makes her feel special. It’s hard to see what individualism might mean in a free country–it’s hard to stand out & it means standing outside the laws by which people live. The difference between crime & fame is not obvious from a psychological standpoint. It’s still TV, it’s still youtube.

Now she needs his help, but it turns out that they do not know each other. He learns the hard way, by learning from experience how much she is like him–he is blinded as much by his love of her as by his regrets. He now knows to avoid alcohol & parole-breaking. The only satisfaction of his new normal life without normal people is that the old evil things are kept at bay.

His daughter brings all that back & she is a girl–she needs protection when she unleashes evil like he had once done. His love sends him to her rescue. But his embracing normalcy inclines him to send her away. He calls her mother, who happily rebuffs him hysterically; his friend & AA sponsor recommends detox, which he rejects because he doesn’t want to lose her to strangers, even though he doesn’t think there’s anything she might need from him.

He takes care of the detox & she is remarkably obedient, which is a testimony to his fatherly love. But then the evil comes & he has to run away with her. The daughter doesn’t know he’s trying to save her; he doesn’t know his daughter wants to run away in order to hide the law-breaking things in her soul. The important plot device–her phone–is plausibly foreign to this wild man from an older world. It is a social fact; it is an insight into her secrets.

All this adds up to a tragedy, or nearly. There is nothing for which this man can live; all he can do is die for his daughter. This suggests a Christian correction of manly protection. All he can do is give her something for which to be grateful. It’s as though only laws paid for in blood are worth obeying…

The new Mel Gibson movie is harsh & sentimental, but worthwhile–it opened in Cannes, as the man is not welcome in Hollywood.