However, I think the strength of that scene was in following it up with that really nice scene of them shooting skeet together. it showed the in-laws as genuinely lovely people. And guns and bibles are part of that.
I did appreciate that Linklater has a clear affection for the in-laws; he's not making fun of them and their "backward ways." And I do think the scene might be saying something interesting about the way we project our own likes/dislikes, views, tastes, etc. onto others, without really stopping to consider whether those others share our likes/dislikes, views, tastes. The in-laws put Mason into their own narrative, assuming he considers himself a part of it. I suppose part of the interesting thing, in the context of the whole film, is that Mason is still figuring out what his own narrative is; others in his life as he grows are writing his story - he cannot really fight against being a part of what they write for him. If his mother takes a new husband, he must be written in as a step-son. If his mother decides to move, a new home is written for him. And I suppose it's in the final scenes that we see Mason is in a place where he has most narrative control. The scene that was most powerful for me - the only one that evoked any kind of emotional response - was when he was driving to university, the symbolic weight of the open road and one's own car - the idea of a life to be lived all out in front of him - all that was pretty powerful to me. It was in that moment that I was most interested in Mason; he took on a sudden individuality that I was curious about and wanted to see finally develop. For in spite of the philosophically interesting idea of Mason being merely a pawn in others' stories, I did long for more specificity relative to Mason earlier in the film. I didn't want Mason to be a blank slate, a Tabula rasa for me to project upon (as roujin put it recently on Twitter
); I wanted to see him more fully formed - as I have seen Kore-eda do, for example, with the children in his films, or Malick in Tree of Life
, or the Dardennes in The Kid with the Bike
. For me to be emotionally invested, I need something more specific than what I got with Mason.
But back to the gun scene. Again, I get that such a thing happens in real life - it's true even in my own community, as I've said - I don't really need more real life examples (though I'm interested in what you say about your experiences, because I'm interested in you
It just doesn't help me, particularly, with the film itself, if that makes sense). What I want is someone to explain why it makes sense for the particular characters of the film. As sdb, asks,
could that sequence happen at a birthday in some rural Texas town? I suppose. Could it happen with some in-laws you seem to barely know (keeping on mind that the new spouse had just come into the story)?
It makes sense, alex, that your mother-in-law would want to give you a bible; it makes sense that your father-in-law is sad that you don't want to shoot with him. They want to connect with you because you are a vital part of their son's life and have been so for many years. Why would step-grand-parents, who barely know Mason (Mason's father has been married, what? a year?), give such personal gifts? (Wasn't the gun one that belonged to the step-grandfather's dad? Or did I misunderstand that?)