What a very sad little tale of an ordinary and all too common life this was. Tony left home at just 16 because of arguments with his mum, as do thousands of kids every year. At the beginning of Max Fisher’s touching and starkly real film, Tony, now 19, hadn’t seen his mum since then and desperately wanted to.
One of the very first things that came across loud and clear about Tony was that he was incredibly childlike for the most part, and very unworldly. He’d been living first in a succession of hostels for the homeless and in one of those, he’d been so badly bullied, he’d had to be moved for his own safety. How lonely and scared this fey, naïve boy must have felt then.
But, as the film began, Tony had decided that he’d like to see his mum again, but he wanted to have a job first and to show her that he’d made something of himself. His live-in friend John-John had guided Tony through the intricacies of living independently, such as food shopping and bill paying, and despite John-John’s full time job of sleeping on Tony’s sofa, they made a rather amusing 21st century Odd Couple.
John-John did the shopping and bill paying because if he didn’t, Tony would’ve just bought “crap” and wouldn’t have paid any bills. John was very much in the role of parent, advising Tony on pretty much everything, from personal hygiene to what to say at a job interview.
There were many touching and sad scenes in this film but one somewhat funnier one was when Tony had a job interview to work in telesales. John sagely advised him of what he should say and, if he got the job, what he’d be doing.
“If it’s 9 ‘til 6 every day, that’s like, 7 hours a day or summat. Times that by a month…” said John, clearly not a maths genius, but his heart was in the right place.
“What? I’ll be working every day?” replied an aghast Tony.
It’s a conversation very similar to ones held up and down the country as teenagers slowly emerge from their beds and realise they may in fact have to earn a living… every day.
In the meantime, Tony was also attempting to find his brother Mark. As far as Tony knew, their mother had put Mark into care when he was 11 because she couldn’t cope with him running away. Tony first tried ringing every M Taylor in the phone book, but to no avail. However, it transpired that Mark was on the same social networking site that Tony was and – given the two were practically identical – he’d seen Tony’s picture and emailed him.
The brothers soon met up and Tony discovered he’d got a whole family on his dad’s side who were just as keen to meet him as he was to meet them. Mark and Tony’s father had committed suicide when the boys were very young, and Tony had no memory of him at all. Tony’s mother had told him that his father, David, was abusive and beat her, but during a scene in which the brothers visited David’s grave, Mark said that his nan had told him that wasn’t true. However, he also said that as a little boy, he’d always been reluctant to go home and his teacher, who’d noticed this telltale reticence, had called social services in. Mark was taken into care and when a return to his mother was being discussed, it appears his mother didn’t want him back. Again, how desperately hurtful for a young boy to be rejected like that.
By the time the film ended, it seemed that Tony’s dependence on John had lessened as his relationship with his newly found brother and extended family matured. One of the closing scenes was of Tony cleaning up the pigsty of a flat he lived in and taking pride in the fact he worked, paid bills and had a nice home.
He’d also come to the conclusion that perhaps seeing his mum again wasn’t necessarily the be all and end all of his life, which it had seemed to be at first. The fact was, he just wanted a family; he wanted to belong and have people who cared about him.
Not a big ask is it? Perhaps the folks in the Young, Dumb and Living Off Mum house should have a visit with Tony as part of their “living in the real world” experiment. Perhaps they wouldn’t be so ungrateful for the love that’s showered on them by their doting parents.