As a teen, did you struggle to find your place in a complicated world? Could you ever be “good enough” or express your true feelings to one whose smile you desired? Has a personal tragedy made you question divine existence or goodness or power? Do those feelings still linger?
If so, A Week Away could help you sort them out.
This fun, high-energy, family-friendly musical film about teen discovery can connect with young and old. It’s fast-paced, artfully-scripted entertainment with a message.
This movie surprised me. Since my audiences are mostly university level and older, a high school film seemed not my best fit. But the characters were genuine, their problems universal, and the life lessons timeless. It evoked lots of teen memories. Fun music, singing and humor drove the storyline home. High School Musical meets Psychology Today.
Detention or summer camp?
Will Hawkins, an orphaned teen delinquent, should be detained for his latest crime. His social services supervisor instead assigns a week at summer camp. At camp – green forests, shimmering lake – Will (who is white) refers to his new friend George (a Black) as his cousin. George likes Presley, but fears telling her. Will likes Avery, the camp director’s daughter, but conceals his true background. He’s learned he’s at a Christian camp and wrestles with fitting in.
Woven into camp life’s cool fun and games are struggles with self-image, self-discovery and desire. The kids’ faith and genuine love attract Will. Since his parents’ tragic death, he’s wondered how God could ever care. Avery cites a Jewish prophet on hope: “For I know the plans I have for you…. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
The camaraderie inspires Will, but his deceit erects barriers. As he learns to manage powerful emotions and navigate relational complexities, he sets an instructive model.
I could have used these lessons earlier in life.
In my eighth grade (age 13) class was the most beautiful young woman I had ever seen. I had the world’s biggest crush. I was also very shy, and never told her how I felt. I rarely spoke to her, except to say “Hi.”
One day in English class, as captain of a Spelling Bee team, she had to choose teammates. Her first pick? Me! I was so excited! Convinced this was true love, I began to contemplate the future, even marriage. Eighth grade.
Been there? Soon, she moved away and I never saw her again. I drowned my sorrows … in root beer.
We never had a relationship because we never really communicated, largely because I had not learned to process my emotions.
Teen emotional struggles like those in A Week Away can haunt adults. My first wife once was quite upset over her high telephone bill. I tried to explain its legitimacy: Reason A, Reason B, Reason C. Big explosion. Puzzled, my keen male intellect deduced that maybe I hadn’t explained Reason A clearly enough, so I clarified. Bigger explosion.
Then I remembered some counsel about emotional connection. “You feel hurt, betrayed and swindled by this bill, don’t you?” I asked her. “It must be very painful.” The storm calmed. She didn’t want me to fix things, but to help her feel understood and loved. (BTW, I learned that I was not unique among the male species in my flawed analysis.)
Emotional intelligence – properly perceiving, expressing, and integrating emotional understanding into life – is wise to cultivate.
In this film, will George tell Presley of his affection for her? Will she reciprocate? Will Avery find her place in the world? Can Will face his disclosure fears and tell her the truth about his past? Will romance blossom?
I’d best leave that for you to discover. If you’re like me, you’ll want to watch it a second time and take some emotional intelligence notes.
Rusty Wright is an author and lecturer who has spoken on six continents. He holds Bachelor of Science (psychology) and Master of Theology degrees from Duke and Oxford universities, respectively. www.RustyWright.com