Sad but True
By Katie G., Grade 12, Fredericton High School, Fredericton, NB
The Man Without a Face
Warner Brothers (1993)
Justin McLeod is the town freak. He's there to be looked at and talked about, not to be spoken to. No one knows his story. He's the man without a face.
Mr. McLeod (Mel Gibson) was in a car crash that left half of his body covered in scars, including the right half of his face. He lived alone and kept to himself.
The movie starts off in a dream. Charles Norstadt is often dreaming. He's a teenager living in a small town with an extremely dysfunctional family. His mother is about to get married for the fifth time and his sister hates him. His dreams are his only escape.
It had been Charles' dream since he was a boy to follow in his father's footsteps by becoming a pilot. His problem was that he failed the entrance exam for the school he wanted to attend. Even though his family had no faith in him, he was determined to get in so he decided to dedicate his summer to studying for one last chance.
Charles desperately needed a tutor. He found one in the last place he would have thought to look, Mr. McLeod. It took a while for the two of them to warm up to each other. Neither of them were very trusting. But eventually, they became extremely close.
Charles kept his friendship with Mr. McLeod a secret from his family because he knew what his mother, and the whole town, thought of him. To them, he was a monster.
Mel Gibson was great in this movie. He plays Justin McLeod very well. He's quite good at playing the tough guy.
The director, Mel Gibson, had quite a tough job considering that he was playing one of the main characters in the movie. But he did a great job. Whenever he wanted Mr. McLeod to look scary, he would show the burned side of his face, and when he wanted the audience to see his softer side, he would show the unburned side.
The theme of discrimination is shown when Mr. McLeod and Charles read aloud the famous lines from Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice": "If you prick us, do we not bleed?" It is clear that Mr. McLeod can relate to the man in the play.
The movie doesn't get the happy ending the audience is waiting for. Mr. McLeod and Charles, who have become something like best friends, are ripped away from each other and are not allowed to see each other ever again. It turns out that Charles' father isn't the hero his son made him out to be, but a drunk who killed himself when Charles was too young to remember it.
The ending is powerful, but sad. The only lesson learned is a sad one. As Mr. McLeod said, in his last line of the movie, it was "A lesson in the tender mercies of injustice."
The movie is definitely one I could watch again and again.
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