Over the weekend I went to see “Win Win,” a film by Thomas McCarthy. It stars Paul Giamatti as Mike Flaherty, a small-town attorney who, for less than noble reasons, becomes the legal guardian of an elderly client of his. Eventually, Mike and his wife Jackie (played by a wonderful Amy Ryan) find themselves taking in the client’s grandson, a high school kid named Kyle who’s got a troubled past but happens to be a pretty amazing wrestler. Since Mike’s the coach of a less-than-amazing high school wrestling team, it seems like a pretty good gig… until Mike’s less-than-noble reasons and Kyle’s troubled past catch up with them both.
It’s a great film, with great performances and an ending that’s redemptive without being schmaltzy. But two scenes have really stuck with me, I think because they depict quietly and powerfully what a community of love and grace can look like.
- In the first, Kyle asks Jackie if he can go with her to the grocery store. She’s surprised (what teenager wants to go to the grocery store with his mom-like-figure?) but happily agrees. Turns out Kyle just wants to buy Cocoa Puffs for his grandpa, since they’re his favorite cereal. As they’re walking down the aisle, Jackie asks Kyle a question about his past. He hesitates. She responds, “That’s ok; you don’t have to answer if you don’t want to” — and then asks Kyle to reach the top shelf and get a box of spaghetti for her.
- In the second, Kyle’s just come home after having bolted when he discovered some of Mike’s bad behavior. He’s mad. Jackie and Mike try to get him to talk about it, but he wants none of it. So they turn to walk away–but Jackie stops, looks Kyle in the eye, and says, “We just want you to know that we love you.” Then she walks up the stairs. Pretty soon, Kyle’s come out of the basement to eat pancakes with Mike. He doesn’t speak — it’s not happily-ever-after — but it is a very real depiction of the slow steps toward the restoration of a relationship.
I think what I love about both of these scenes is the way Jackie creates a safe family space for Kyle and intentionally invites him in — but never pushes and never requires him to be different than he is at that moment. Not ready to talk about your past? Fine — but by asking you to reach the spaghetti for me, I show you that I value you and am better off having you with me. Not ready to move past your anger to address the problems we’re facing? OK — but there’s food waiting for you upstairs, and I’m going to be absolutely clear that when you’re ready, we’ll work out those problems in the context of a loving relationship.
In other words, what I love about these scenes, and about Jackie, is that she makes it ok for Kyle to be broken. She offers the hope of having some of his brokenness healed. And she offers him a place in their family, in a different story than the painful one he’d grown up in.
At Restoration, we often talk about being broken people who are restored by grace and living God’s story. It’s a lot like what Jackie offered Kyle. I hope we can be that kind of community, that kind of family.
I think we can.
I think we are.