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Examining Rules February 9, 2013

Posted by heidi skarie in Movie reveiew.
Tags: , , , , , , ,

My husband and I spent the week before Christmas in court.  A property we had a small ownership share of was sued.  The jury didn’t rule in our favor, so on Friday night we decided to escape into the pleasure of watching a movie.  The first movie we saw Cider House Rules (1999).  After the movie was over I was still agitated over losing the lawsuit, so we watched Billie Elliot (2000). 

Both movies explored the theme of rules and whether there are times when a person is justified in breaking them.  Our experience in court also involved rules. During our law suit the judge decided many of the decisions in the courtroom like what evidence was admissible in court, and if one lawyer objected to a question the opposing lawyer asked, the judge sustained or overruled the objection.  To some degree the judge influenced our losing the case.  The plaintiff used the court system to extort money from the owners, and the judge seemed more interested in the rules than justice.

ImageCider House Rules explored right and wrong rules. The main character Homer Wells (Tobey Maguire) was raised in an orphanage. Dr Wilbur (Michael Caine) who worked at the orphanage took him under his wing and trained him as his assistant.  Part of the doctor’s jobs was delivering unwed mother’s babies into the world. Sometimes the doctor performed illegal abortions.  Homer helped with the births but didn’t approve of abortions and wouldn’t assist with them. Dr. Wilbur broke the law when he performed the abortions, but he did it to save the life of pregnant girls who might otherwise have an unsafe abortion.

Eventually, Homer decided he wanted to see the world and left the orphanage with an unmarried couple after the woman had an abortion.  They invited him to work at a cider house.  A traveling group of fruit pickers came each year to live in the cider house and pick apples.  The house had a list of rules on the wall, but the migrant workers were illiterate.  Homer was educated at the orphanage and read the first rule loud.  The rule was to not smoke in bed, which one of the men happened to be doing.  The head of the migrant workers told Homer to stop reading the rules as they didn’t apply to them.

The list of rules was only a symbol for the much more profound rules that Homer must decide if he would follow.  He ended up breaking many rules some of which have profound consequences.

ImageThe second movie we watched was Billy Elliot (2000) set in 1984-1985 during a miner’s strike in Durham, England. Eleven-year-old Billy (Jamie Bell) was a miner’s son.  Both his father and older brother work in the mine, which was on strike.  Billy’s mother died and his senile grandmother lives with the family.  Billy’s father paid for Billy to take boxing lessons, but Billy had no interest in boxing.  When a ballet class started meeting in the same building as where Billy took boxing lessons, he found himself attracted to dance even though it’s an all-girl class.  The teacher encouraged him to dance, but insisted that he pay.  Billy skipped his boxing lessons and used his boxing money to pay for ballet dancing.  Eventually his father found out and was horrified that his son was doing something as unmanly as ballet dancing and wouldn’t let him continue. 

Meanwhile the whole town was on edge.  The miners were picketing and the mining company had hired scabs.  Billy’s older brother protested the scabs and got beaten up by the police and arrested. 

The dance teacher believed in Billy and she started teaching him privately for free.  She thought he had the talent to get a scholarship at the Royal Ballet School in London, and helped him develop a dance routine so he could audition. 

Getting into the academy in London would not only be a chance for Billy to dance, but also a chance to break out of the bleak future of becoming a miner.

Billy broke his father’s rules when he used his boxing money for dancing lessons.  Even after his father found out and forbid him to dance, Billy disobeyed his father and continued to take dance lessons because he loved dancing.  He said dancing was like he had this fire in his body, flying like bird, like electricity.

Both of these outstanding movies had powerful stories and great characters.  Billy Elliot also has fabulous dance sequences. Both movies caused me to think about rules long after I’d watched them. Rules are needed in a society by parents, teachers, governments,  etc. and most should be obeyed.  Yet some rules are bad ones or there are legitimate reasons for breaking them. 

What rules have you broken in your life?  When is it all right to break a rule and when is it wrong?  I’d enjoy hearing your feedback.   

Billy Elliot trailer


Billy Elliot dance scene

Cider House Rules trailer





1. Ross - February 11, 2013

Thanks for your thoughts on an important topic.

2. Sue Valdes - February 15, 2013

The issue of rules is interesting to debate. For me, there are certain rules which ought not to be broken because they violate spiritual law. Others, which are more cultural might best be broken when they, too conflict with spiritual law.
I guess you can break whatever laws you want if you are fully prepared to pay the social and spiritual consequence of having broken them.

3. heidi skarie - February 28, 2013

That’s a valid point. If you break a social rule you can become an outcast in your community. A spiritual rule might be to not kill, but what if you are a soldier in the war and ordered to kill?

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