Two films out this week deal with teenagers and their parents. In the pretty-good “The Kings of Summer,” a boy runs away because of his relationship with his father, which is strained after the death of the boy’s mother. In the excellent “Fill the Void,” an Orthodox Jewish girl is under immense pressure from her mother to marry her sister’s widower. Which is an entirely new level of annoying.
It’s not just the parents’ interference in their children’s lives that links the films together. In both stories, the children — who are not strictly “children” anymore — are almost incapable of seeing their parents as anything but controlling elements. That “almost” is key and is the crux of both movies.
Each kid comes to understand that his or her parents are human, with motivations of their own. In “Fill the Void,” the mom is pushing for the kind-of-creepy marriage so that her grandson, the only child of her dead daughter, will stay in the country. To her, it seems like a perfect solution to a heart-wrenching problem. In “Kings,” the dad has to live a life he never prepared for — that of a single father — whereas most dads get a pass when it comes to the day-to-day grind of parenting (Quick! Who made the lunches when you were growing up? The doctors’ appointments? Who signed your permission slips?).
The parents in these two films are believably imperfect; they’re grieving and they’re loving and they’re scared and they really do want what is best for their kids. The stories are about the children, but — just like in life — the parents are right behind them, as human as can be.