In the superb drama, Gran Torino, Clint Eastwood's character, Walt Kowalski, is not at all a likeable man. This retired auto worker has a gruff disposition, a snarling visage and a narrow mind. He's a grumpy old racist. He also carries deep scars from his time as a front line soldier in the Korean War. At the beginning of the film we see him at his wife's funeral. She was possibly the only softening agent to have had any effect on him.
Hard as nails Kowalski, who uses abusive language for sport, remains alone in his house after his wife's death and battles on in the torpor of his grief and loneliness. He busies himself with the maintenance of the house and is devoted to his 1972 Ford Gran Torino which he helped to build, and his labrador, Daisy.
An unlikely friendship with two young Hmong people who live next door provides an opportunity for Walt to change, to open his mind, and to eventually have an epiphany which leads to him making the ultimate sacrifice. Sorry for the spoiler if you haven't seen the film, but if you haven't....may I ask why not? It's a must see film. Don't miss it.
I showed this film to my class of adult migrants, and it was interesting to see their reaction to the clash of cultures, and the power of common humanity to smash preconceptions and facilitate beautiful relationships. Sometimes it takes catastrophe to jolt us out of delusion, or to snatch us from the dark path which leads to nowhere. The catalyst for Kowalski's revelation that violence only begets violence was the brutal treatment delivered to his young friend as payback for his own actions.
Walt felt that his death was the only way to right the wrong. He was not to be a part of the new brighter future that he would help create for his two young friends. He would no longer share their triumphs, no longer provide guidance or comfort. He would never know what became of them, but he gave his life trusting that his sacrifice was worth the cost.
Two hundred and ninety eight people were murdered on Malaysia Airways MH17. My sincere condolences go to the family and friends of the dead. Grief will torture them, and they will ask questions which have no answers. Their lives have been forever changed by this act of terrorism. Death is the ultimate reminder of our fragility.
Have you ever experienced a life changing epiphany? Ever realized suddenly, by virtue of some disaster or tragedy, that you were totally on the wrong track? Please share you story with us.