Selected Scene Analysis from the 2005 Coming-of-age film, Rounding First

An original article by
Nelson B.
San Francisco, CA
19th March 2007


Autographed headshot of Soren Fulton ascribed to Nelson


Rounding First is an independent film that showcases three 12-year-old boys who abandon baseball camp in order to track down one of the boy's parents whose reason behind a trip is kept from Joe, the son of the parents in question. Curiosity behind this secret trip is what prompts the boys departure from summer boyhood fun to a long, troublesome yet fun journey. One of the main features of coming-of-age films is to showcase child characters in situations in which adult intervention is sometimes not available thus causing the child to handle a given event/s without the assistance usually provided to them at home and at school. Certain scenes in the film operate this way. In this piece, one will review certain scenes of interest in order to shed light on their significance. I think that the scenes I will cover convey specific rites of passage that boys experience at some point during their childhood.

One indoor scene taking place in an arcade (Yocco's West)is one instance in which the parent and adult free mise-en-scene is conducive to setting up a situation where the young protagonists find themselves in trouble (being harassed by a small group of boys) and must deal with the difficult state of affairs on their own. Three surplus characters enter the scene and immediately initiate a confrontation with Joe, causing Tiger to step in on behalf of his good friend, a few moments later. The over confident trouble makers overestimate Tiger's ability to defend himself in addition to Joe until the brave lad pulls out a small knife and begins taunting the three bullies causing them to flee the scene, if you will. Such a scene positions the main characters in a potentially dangerous situation where there is a possibility of being hurt; aside from this, the child geared setting is such that there is generally no visible signs of protective adults present to whom one could summon for help. Boys at some point during their childhood may find themselves in situations where being hurt, whether emotionally and or physically, can occur. This particular scene is important insofar as it conveys one of many options youngsters sometimes take in reacting to threats by others, in this case, taking out a concealed weapon for the purposes of self-defense. When protective adults are not available to put out the fire, so to speak, the child must sometimes use objects at their disposal in order to spare themselves from being harmed; interestingly enough, a small switch blade is often the preferred weapon of choice. The arcade realm is significant in terms of allowing the boys to encounter conflict with their peers. Furthermore, the apparent absence of helping adults within the mise-en-scene makes the boys vulnerable because if something bad were to occur, e.g., a fight breaks out, who will put out the fire? Tiger's playful handling of the knife, referring to it as a Jedi life saver, I think elicited a genuine reaction from the bullies while at the same time, aided in somewhat diffusing the initial tension established at the beginning of the scene when he smiles at the end of his knife waving act. This scene showcases a feature of the coming-of-age genre, namely, confrontation with peers which must be dealt with independent of adult support. This is certainly a rite of passage that boys may encounter at some point during their development. This scene is comparable to a particular part in Stand by Me, in which Gordy's baseball cap, a special gift from his older brother, is taken by an older boy, at which point Chris steps in on Gordy's behalf, only to be met with hostility himself. Unlike in Stand by Me, where a moderate act of violence is shown (Chris being thrown to the ground and threatened with a lighted cigarette), the scene taking place at Yocco's West successfully depicts this particular rite of passage (encounter with menaces) without depicting the level of violence in the Stand by Me scene. The video game scene also features another trademark of the genre namely that best friends always look out for each other; so is the case in the Stand by Me scene. Lastly, in terms of advancing the story, this scene reinforces if not establishes character, namely, that Tiger is a youngster who takes risks while Joe is the emotional, sensitive one.

The scene/sequence entitled, On the Road, is another instance in which the three young characters are confronted with a difficult situation thus requiring them to make a decision without the support of protective adults. The scene in question takes places on a freeway where we find our protagonists walking along the shoulder after their bikes were stolen some time prior. The lack of foot traffic, that is to say, the lack of people present within this particular setting makes for an ideal location in which to present the boys with another conflict to endure. Here, their attempts to hitch a ride pay off when a young man pulls over and offers them a ride. While both Sam and Joe are skeptical of the young man s character, Tiger appears to be the most enthusiastic among the three regarding the stranger s willingness to give them a ride. The boys engage in a brief discussion about whether or not to go along with the stranger whose name is Rascal; Joe and Sam voice words of protest while Tiger appears to have little reservations about the guy. Ultimately, they accept the man s request to accept a ride from him. This scene and the setting, in particular, serve to position the young characters in a difficult situation in which they must come to a decision without the help of adults given that none are present. They must guide each other, voice their individual opinions and ultimately, agree on the course of action to be taken. The freeway setting is an ideal place to establish such a scene because it is primarily a place traveled by cars rather than people on foot so help, if needed, is not exactly near by. In terms of function, the freeway sequence visually conveys a specific kind of situation children may find themselves in, namely, that a stranger may offer them a ride and what can potentially transpire, in this case, encounter with a semi-shady, questionable character; such an experience constitutes a rite of passage that the director wished to express and not necessarily condone.

Rounding First is an independent film that showcases three 12-year-old boys who abandon baseball camp in order to track down one of the boy s parents whose reason behind a trip is kept from Joe, the son of the parents in question. Curiosity behind this secret trip is what prompts the boys departure from summer boyhood fun to a long, troublesome yet fun journey. There are certain rites of passage that boys go through such as making a decision without adult support, confrontations with peers, to name a few. Rounding First covers many of them. Depicting any given number of situations qualifying as rites of passage are not necessarily a demonstration of advocacy for such but rather a means or channel in which to portray instances of reality. I am glad I came across Rounding First because the movie featured elements of story that interested me some of which include but are not limited to the following: confrontation with peers, 1980s setting, attempts by parents to discourage certain friendships, dealing with difficult situations without adult intervention, to name a few. The film is unique in that it differs from other coming-of-age movies that are about children, however, not for children. Over the years, I have observed that many films within the genre have an "R" rating attached to them, e.g., Joe the King, Stand by Me, The Tic Code, to name a few, making them technically forbidden to watch by young film goers. The film-maker of Rounding First was successful in accomplishing the task of creating a genre piece that was free of profanity, sexual content, and the level of violence that might qualify it for an "R" rating making it a family friendly film. I think excellent coming-of-age films are films that feature young characters going on a journey some where while, at the time, depicting rites of passage-this movie did just that. I have nothing but praise for Rounding First.

 

 

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