An important idea in the film “Mean Creek” directed by Jacob Aaron Estes, is coming of age. This is conveyed through verbal features such as silence, and visual features including use of props and lighting. Through the use of these techniques we are able to understand the theme more clearly.
Coming of age is a mental/metaphorical journey taken by everyone. It’s when you’re at that point in your life where you’re ready to leave your childhood and enter adulthood. This usually results in your loss of innocence. It’s kind of like a rite of passage to become mature. In some cultures, this calls for a ceremony like in the Niuean culture. A haircutting ceremony is done for the boys, where a young boy of around 13 has his hair cut. This only happens for a boy who has never had his hair cut, so it’s quite lengthy, and for girls’, an ear piercing ceremony. This marks their coming of age.
A particular technique that portrays the theme coming of age is the use of props. The specific scene that shows this is the scene where Rocky is calling George to invite him on the boating trip for Sam’s birthday. There are many elements that contribute to the theme including music and lighting, but a significant technique is the use of props. Throughout the whole scene Rocky is interacting with several objects like the basketball, the globe and the other boys in the room. This shows the whole playfulness of the scene. How he’s fidgeting and making lots of contact with things around him, shows the whole casualness of the situation. This shows the theme because the entire scene reflects the youthful and free-spiritedness of the boys.
Another technique that shows the theme is lighting. The specific scene that I’m referring to is the scene where Marty walks in and they’re all sitting in Rocky and Sam’s room, when they’ve all come to a decision. The lighting in the room is very dark, which reflects the mood of how they’re all feeling, so when Marty walks in, he immediately detects that something’s wrong. The music also contributes to the mood in this scene because it’s quite melancholy and somber. The lighting also shows how Marty is now the outcast in the group. The others’ are all sitting in a circle, and the only significant light is shining down on Marty, highlighting that he’s no longer apart of the group because he still sticks with his decision. This shows the theme because in this scene they’re at the point in the film where they’re very serious. This differs to the other scene I mentioned before, where they were being playful, reflecting their youthfulness, whereas in this scene how they’re more serious, this reflects a more adult-feel.
Silence is also another technique used to show the theme, specifically in the scene where Marty is standing with his brother Kyle, leaning on the car. This is the scene where he’s about to run away to Mexico. It’s not the dialogue that shows the theme but more the lack of dialogue. Just before Marty leaves, his brother attempts to talk to him, but then just leaves saying nothing. It’s like he says it all in one look, like words weren’t needed to express what he wanted to say. Also when he gives him the gun. Before in the movie when he catches Marty messing around with his gun, he tells him off and twists his ear. This shows that he feels that he knows what’s best for Marty. That he doesn’t trust that he’s able to make sensible decisions for himself. But in that particular scene, when he gives Marty the gun, this shows that he has a kind of new respect for his little brother because of the whole situation. He no longer looks at him like his little brother and this is predominantly shown by Kyle giving Marty the gun. This shows the theme because it’s Marty who has reached the coming of age because of what happened, and when he’s given the gun, that’s like his official wakeup call to the whole situation and how real it is.
These 3 particular techniques convey the theme well because they all add a significant, but different, effect to each scene and it’s that uniqueness that helps the viewer understand the theme more. When they’re all combined, it creates a more realistic feel. The director has done a good job manipulating the viewer by using these techniques.