Tom & Thomas - Gerda Seinhorst - 30 January 2002

Last Update: 30 January 2002

Tom & Thomas is not scary
by Gerda Seinhorst

I went to see Tom & Thomas with my 9 year old niece and 11 year old nephew.

I took them to hear their opinion about the film, because I was wondering about the contradictory information I had got. First there was Sean, saying he had chosen this script, because he would like to play a good-un, for a change, and he liked the story. Then there was the rating: all ages, with the recommendation for children under six to look at it accompanied by an adult. And then the newspaper reviews suddenly thought the film scary. An Esmé Lammers story scary? I had seen 'Long Live the Queen' and that one was just sweet.

I knew that in any case I would be prejudiced: I tend to like every film Sean is in :)

So what would be the children's view? To be short about it: their opinion was that the film is COOL, exciting, but not scary.

I agree with them. T&T is an expertly made children's film. It looks great, is often funny and I think Esmé Lammers understands very well how to make the children feel confident, even when it gets exciting. She has built in a lot of 'safety breaks'.

For instance: to start with the biggest criticism in the reviews, the airport climax. Yes, there is a lot of tension, but at the same time you know help is on the way. When Thomas is kidnapped and drugged, Tom is with him, waiting for his chance to save him. When Tom is in trouble - freezing in the wheel bay - you already know the plane's pilot. She is the nice, new neighbour of Thomas, and Sean's new love interest. So she certainly won't let Tom or Thomas come to any harm. (That's how the children saw it; they firmly believe in happy endings).

The film ends with an epilogue, so even when you would have been scared, you can relax when it is being explained how Tom and Thomas got separated in the first place. You see all the criminals being arrested and even the boy, whose disappearance Tom witnessed, returns home. And you see Tom, Thomas, Paul and Celia being one little happy family.

I see I've started at the end, so back to the beginning.

About the characters:
Sean plays Paul, Thomas' foster father. He is soooooo sweet! And as a (failing) housemaid, totally cute. He is a real pal for Thomas, guiding him, concerned for his wellbeing. Paul is grieving and thinks Thomas' images of Tom are a way of dealing with his mother's loss. When he discourages Thomas to 'talk' to Tom, it is because he wants Thomas to handle the current situation and not lose himself in daydreams (at least, that is my interpretation).

Paul is totally non-aggressive, and so is Thomas. They act very consistent to their character. They handle difficult situations with reasoning, not with fights. The first time you see this is when Tom tries to convince Thomas to deal with a bullying classmate with a big mouth and shows him how to turn someone's arm on his back. Thomas' immediate reaction is "That hurts!". When the confrontation comes, Thomas tries it in Tom's way, but eventually talks his way out. With a surprised look on his face you see him thinking : "Hey, this works as well". Later in the film you see that duplicated by Paul. When he realises there are two boys, he comes to investigate at the institute. When a boy there tries to bully him ("I know where he went. Nowhere") you see him getting angry, but controlling it. He takes the boy aside and talks to him: "Very funny, but next time it could be you, disappearing" and in this way he finds out what the boy knows.

Tom is far more streetwise. He has learned the hard way that adults are not to be trusted. When Tom and Thomas meet, Thomas' first reaction is to tell his dad. Tom doesn't agree. He thinks it's better to hide. He is not used to affectionate gestures, so when he and Thomas exchange places, he ducks when Paul wants to ruffle his hair. Poor boy. And he certainly isn't ready to call Paul 'dad'. Thomas' reaction to that: "But at least don't call him Sir!" (In the epilogue he does call Paul "dad", by the way.)

Celia is the new neighbour and new love of Paul. Could she have been more politically correct? Woman, black, pilot, riding a motorbike and nice and clever, as well. Good choice, Paul.

Very cleverly made are the connections between the different scenes when Tom and Thomas have not yet met, but especially Thomas feels that something is going on. Every time Tom gets into real trouble, the scene switches to Thomas, who feels scared, too, but is reassured by his dad. In this way the film shows little explicit violence, but the violence is quite 'heavy', especially at the beginning when Tom is being hit with an iron rod.

When Tom and Thomas have met in the mirror maze and decide to live together at Thomas' house, it gets really funny. Nice little shots about the dog as well, looking around like thinking "What's going on". Or at school, when they change classes. Tom does Thomas's geography test and then it's Thomas' turn at doing sums.

It is funny as well when the love interest between Paul and Celia comes along. First there is annoyance when there is a new bike in the doorway, but that is "Oh, no, no problem at all" when Paul and Thomas see this lovely woman leaving on her motorbike. Boys will be boys.

Or when Celia rings at the door and Thomas calls: "Leave it dad, she's coming for me", Paul reacts with: "How does he do it!".

To me this was an clear example how Paul and Thomas live together. They have a real close bond. In that aspect the film does remind me of 'Long Live the Queen'. The closeness between parents and children, the real safety. Even when they don't always understand each other, you know there is real love between them.

The climax of the film comes quite suddenly. Just when you expect to see more about Thomas and Tom confusing their surroundings - and when does anyone finally realise there are two boys around - the pace accelerates and rushes to the end. There is a real murder attempt on Thomas there, with a enormous syringe, but all my nephew was impressed with, was that it was enough to kill an elephant.

I think as an adult you can think the film is scary, because of its theme: child smugglers, abductions, abuse. We know what can happen to little children. The children I took to see the film just never thought of that. They knew it was just a story, so they expect a happy end. So they didn't mind that much that Thomas was being shipped of to a far country. Or that Tom was living in a horrible home. He was going to live with his brother, wasn't he? So all's well, that ends well :)

I really liked this film. It was lovely to see Sean as a genuine good-un.

But because of the theme I would not take little children to see it, unless I was very sure they know the difference between a film story and reality.

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