The boy who could fly (1986)

Mrs Carolyn Sherman: “Well Eric always dreamed of flying, so maybe if you wish hard enough and love long enough anything is possible.”

There aren’t many people that can say that they have never had the “flying” dream, to be weightless, the world opens like your soul as you fly over it, through it. What power and pain the world had over you now means nothing. A dream that never really leaves you even when you grow up.

Synopsis

Milly meets Eric when she and her family move to a new town. Over time Milly and Eric get closer and she discovers his secret that he can fly, while the State Institute chases after them. It takes both of them to set themselves free and fly.

Story

Amelia “Milly” Michaelson played by Lucy Deakins and her mother Charlene played by Bonnie Bedelia and her brother Louis played by Fred Savage and their dog Max move to a new town after their dad died from cancer. When they first arrive, Louis dressed in army attire takes his Radio Flyer Tricycle around the block but is stopped by some bullies. Milly starts unpacking when her neighbour down the road walks in and introduces herself to Milly. Her new neighbour Geneva Goodman played by Mindy Cohn welcomes her to the town.

That night Milly finds her mum crying over a picture of their family. Charlene asks Milly to take care of things while she works. Milly goes to her room and is spooked by a shadow that flies by her window, she checks on Louis who is unpacking his military toys and they talk about him digging a new hole in the garden that he calls the “graveyard.”

The next day after waking up late Milly and Louis are dropped off at school while Charlene starts her new job at an insurance company where she is perplexed on how to use the computer and that if she doesn’t learn how to use it she will be demoted. At school Milly meets her new teacher Mrs Carolyn Sherman played by Colleen Dewhurst, the class is learning about Romeo and Juliet when Milly notices her neighbour Eric played by Jay Underwood playing with paper planes in the back.

That night during dinner Milly tells her mum and brother about Eric, and how his parents died in a plane crash and since then he has been quiet and pretends he can fly.

The next day at school Mrs Sherman notices Eric copying Milly and asks that she keep an eye on him and try to normalize him. Nothing works at first, he won’t catch a ball or even speak until one day she tries to follow Eric lead and makes a paper plane, he smiles for the first time drawing them closer together.

Milly asks Geneva what she knows about Eric and if anything strange has ever happened before. Geneva tells her that her old neighbour was shooting Eric with BB gun one day and the next day the BB gun was found strung up on a telephone line. While talking to Geneva Milly sees Eric up on the roof. She grabs a ladder and helps Eric inside the attic where he shows her a picture of his parents. On the way downstairs she comes into contact with Uncle Hugo Gibb played by Fred Gwynne who asks if she wants a drink, she declines. He asks her why and she says that it wouldn’t be polite, he retorts saying that it wouldn’t be unpolite to call him crazy though. Mr Gibb knows that Eric can fly too and no one believes him.

THE BOY WHO COULD FLY, Lucy Deakins, 1986. ©20th Century-Fox, TM & Copyright

Milly tries to connect closer to Eric by doing stuff that she thinks he would like, things like reading books about flying and flying a kite. Before they fly the kite, a baseball is hit in her direction and Eric catches it protecting her. She and Eric get closer when they launch the kite, send it higher and higher.

At school, Milly tries to show the gym teaching and the class the progress she has made with Eric, however, Eric doesn’t comply to catch the ball making Milly look like an idiot, turning her into more of an outcast by the other girls.

Louis in the meantime has been getting into a lot of trouble at school and Milly has been forging their mum’s signature. That night during dinner Charlene finds the letter and in rage, demands to know how Milly is helping. Milly frustrated with her school life, not having any friends, and having to take care of everything she defiantly tells her mum that she cooks, she cleans up after Louis and takes care of the house. Charlene taken aback sends Milly to her room. While everyone is crying in their rooms Eric finds some old family films and plays them. Charlene, Milly and Louis hug one another as Eric cries while watching footage of their dad joking and clowning around with them. At that moment they were a family again.

On a school excursion, Milly wonders off and sees the group of popular from her school trying to reach for white rose on a branch. Milly wanting to be popular climbs the railing attempting to get it, Eric keeping an eye on her. She slips and knocks her head on the railing.

She wakes up in hospital that night and finds Eric floating outside her window, Eric takes her hand flying up into the clouds where they sit in a cloud watching fireworks. Milly lost in the moment at the exhilaration kisses Eric. Shortly after their kiss Eric takes her back to her room where she witnesses her dad died in a hospital bed. In shock, she wakes up thinking that it was a dream. A shrink visits her and asks her about Eric, Milly exclaims in joy that she believes that Eric can fly. The shrink asks her about her dad’s suicide, Milly angered by this tells her that her dad died of cancer, not wanting to let it go the shrink pushes harder allowing Milly to let go and admit that her dad killed himself because he didn’t want his family to suffer as he was going to, so to save them the pain he killed himself. Milly breaks down crying, the shrink comforts her.

Milly goes home with her mother and brother and finds the rose she was after left by her window, re-sparking her belief that Eric could fly. She calls to Gibbs who just got home asking where Eric was. Mr Gibbs explains that after what happened with her the Institute came by and took Eric. Milly goes to the Institute but is unable to see Eric.

Louis’ “graveyard” now full attempts to go around the block again, this time taking Max to guard him. Max runs away in fear and the bullies pull Louis’ bike apart. Upset Louis calls to Max across the street who is hiding behind a bush. Max crosses the road and is hit by a passing car; Max is alive but wounded.

Thunder and lightning outside Milly checks on Louis who is upset about Max and how their dad died. Lost in his emotion he goes to jump out the window and say that the Institute couldn’t hold Eric if he really could fly. Milly stops Louis from jumping, not done he runs outside to save his toys from being washed away, Charlene and Milly helping him. During the storm, Milly thinks she sees Eric on top of the roof.  She is grateful yet worried when she finds Eric shivering by his parents’ photo. Eric takes out a box and hands Milly is mum’s wedding ring. Milly stays the night watching over him.

Police siren wake Milly and Eric, Milly sees the Institute outside and heads to take Eric to take him back. Thinking quickly Milly takes Eric to the school to see Mrs Sherman, when they get there, they find the school has put on a fair. With no options they proceed inside the school, they find Mrs Sherman and discover that the Institute had gotten ahead of them. They panic and head to the roof, surrounded and nowhere to go Eric speaks Milly’s name, getting her attention. Milly asks Eric if he really can fly. He nods and smiles. They jump off the roof and before it is too late Eric grabs her hand and they take off flying through the fairgrounds heading for Milly’s home. The town chasing after them.

Eric drops Milly off, knowing he has to go he kisses Milly and says goodbye before he flies off. Afterwards, the government and news reporters investigate what happened, trying to understand how a boy was able to fly. With no leads, they take Eric’s things. Milly is watching the news and see Mrs Sherman telling the world why she believes Eric was able to fly.

Several months later Mr Gibbs has sobered up and gotten a job, Charlene spent a day learning how to use the computer and Louis goes Rambo on the bullies and makes it around the block. Milly thinking to herself about what Eric had taught her about not giving up and keep the love inside you as she flies a plane into the sky.

Highlights

  • The moment Eric catches the baseball and smiling at her after he protected her from harm.
  • When Eric and Milly fly together for the first time, rising through clouds and resting next to each other and kissing in the clouds.

Conclusion

Your first thought might be thinking that it’s a kid’s movie and on the surface that is how it appears. It’s more than that, it’s a family film that touches on many issues. One is that no matter the someone age they will face challenges that will hurt them both psychically and emotionally and that sometimes you have two choices, let the pain control you or accept what the pain is and move on.

What the movie enlightens is male suicide and loved ones lost. It touches on the trauma that can and does comes from these events. That the pain doesn’t end only when the person has died, that it carries on. It shows that loving those close to you and strangers doesn’t just help you but them as well.

Mature content doesn’t always mean for adults only, only that the content is about issues that someday you or your child might have to face. Learning about male suicide and lost of love ones is a common events sadly and need to be discussed.

The acting all around is good, even young Fred Savage does a great job. The green screen effects aren’t anything special and lucky there weren’t many scenes using them. The music lures you in and drives you through each scene. The moment Eric and Milly kiss you feel their love for one another and you also feel their pain.

A minor plot hole is after Eric is taken to the Institute how did Milly know where it was? Or at what point was Milly dreaming about her dad’s death in the hospital and her flying with Eric? There minor and they don’t subtract from what you’re thinking or feeling at that point. The movie goes from action scenes to slower scenes, giving the audience a chance to breathe and think about what they just saw.

A movie for everyone to enjoy whether it is the emotional drama or the moment Eric and Milly fly in front of the whole town. A movie that touches your soul and makes you want to fly.

Score

4.8/5

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