I grew up as what is now termed a “free-range” child. Many who are similarly-aged, particularly if you didn’t grow up in a suburb, may claim the same. I spent most of my day out of my house in town, the library was a favorite haunt, or on the creek in the backyard or skipping stones on the Hudson River down the hill. The other days, a climb to the peak of Schunnemunk Mountain, part of the Appalachians, specifically the Hudson Highlands, revealed all types of adventures and wildlife and botanical treasure.
Before moving back to the United States from Turkey, wandering didn’t happen so much, whether we lived in Ankara, Yalova or on Karamusel Air Base, though looking at videos on YouTube of my early childhood locale, the aesthetic was similar enough. The language barrier made the difference.
All this brings me to the movie Troop Zero which I watched this Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend. The movie is erroneously described as “a misfit girl (Mckenna Grace) dreaming of life in outer space and recruits a makeshift troop of Birdie Scouts, forging friendships that last a lifetime and beyond.” The movie makes no such claim about the enduring friendships.
But what it does depict is the life of children, and some adults, trying to be “free” in spirit and to themselves, and to include others who are just a bit off and out there, non-conformists, or people for whom something has set them apart. It teaches us that freedom is a promise though there are painful costs. The acting, including the handful of children and Viola Davis and Allison Janney is enough to warrant a watch. I write about it for you because few movies allow us to watch children grow into that freedom we want them to have, to be whomever they need to be. Troop Zero tells us how hard and alienating it is to do that, and how strikingly beautiful.
The movie’s major flaw is that it assumes colorblindness. Set in 1977 small town Georgia, the landscape suggesting a Florida/Alabama border, it was probably not the easy side-by-side living and inclusive town the movie relays. Surely, a story about how children can grow up in freedom could have been examined within the reality of racism without racism being the major theme of the story? Negating racism is never an option but it is also not the only story to be told. It is always there but it is not always the point.
Nevertheless, I recommend this movie to families looking to watch something together. Not one moive review mentioned the promise and cost of freedom that is infused in its telling, but I suspect your children (of all ages) will know it straight away. The colorblindness is so evident that it too offers an opportunity to reflect together, on how the story’s promise is made less so because not telling the truth does that.