Things hidden in plain sight tend to be the hardest to find. That was exactly the case with me and Home Alone movie. For years, I understood it in all possible ways, with the sole exception of the one that was really central to this Christmas story. The thoughtful authors even used that core lesson as the title (probably for slow-witted people like me). It took me a quarter of a century to read those two simple words properly.
At first, I thought that the movie was a modern reading of The Ransom of Red Chief, a short story by O. Henry, set up around Christmas this time. O. Henry’s story is about a hyperactive and spoiled boy who can drive two unlucky abductors crazy. The little protagonist of Home Alone uses the classic Native American methods of combat, i.e., pawky traps, ambushes, crossbows, nets, and other tools against the dumb grown-up thugs. The scriptwriters decided to add a didactic touch to this action movie about the young Rambo because it’s a Christmas story, after all. The boy behaves badly, he is punished. Infuriated, he tells his family, “I wish you weren’t there.” Magically, his wish comes true. He remains alone and endures serious ordeals until he finally concludes that one’s family is the most valuable asset that a person can have.
In short, it’s a decent well-crafted sitcom with a bit of morals, what else can there be? In fact, there’s so much else to be said about it.
Lately, I’ve recognized another layer of meaning in this movie. It comprises the core message of this movie, which is hard to see because it’s so obvious.
The main character found himself alone in his home not when his family left him. He is always alone. He is alone in the midst of his family who for some reason rejected him and didn’t want to share the warmth and joy of human interaction with him. He is alone even though he has brothers and sisters, a good-looking mom and a handsome dad. Does it matter if his brothers and sisters can only ridicule him and mock at him, while his parents are always busy doing something that they deem important and pay attention to Kevin only when he attempts to defend himself against the mockery of his older brother, an insolent hypocrite, in which case they invariably side with the offender.
The movie doesn’t show us a withdrawn kid who cannot get along with people. The protagonist is open for friendship and normal interaction. He is capable of getting along extremely well with perfect strangers like the toy store owner or the homeless woman in the Central Park. He easily adapts to unexpected situations, openly voices his thoughts and feelings, hurries to help, respects other people, and values friendship.
Nonetheless, it happens only outside of the family. He is painfully alone at his own home. Undoubtedly, it isn’t Kevin who is to blame for that. His attempts at restoring contact with his family are immediately and rudely blocked by them.
Even when his family returns—after the happy encounter, mom’s hugs and displays of mutual affection and all—the boy immediately receives the usual portion of mockery and scoffing. Remember when the family suddenly returns from another city and the mom is worried that she hadn’t bought milk for breakfast? Kevin wants to please his parents and says that he had already been to the store and bought some food. That’s when the scene that explains it all starts. Instead of being grateful, his closest relatives pour on him a whole lot of dismissive remarks:
—I went shopping yesterday.
—I got some milk, eggs and fabric softener.
—No kidding? What a funny guy. What else did you do while we were away?
—Just hung around.
—He went shopping? He doesn’t know how to tie his shoe. He’s going shopping?
That’s it. Kevin is home alone again. The real loneliness begins for him as soon as his parents and siblings come back. Only while they are away can Kevin lead a normal life of a person who is looking for love and who shares his love with those ready to accept it. He knows from his own painful experience what it means to be rejected so he understands rejected people better. The old man next door who was kicked out of his son’s life for some reason, a homeless bird-loving woman with a broken heart: those disaffected and weary adults miraculously come back to life when Kevin gets into their lives with his simple but honest words of support. Suddenly, it dawns on you that it weren’t words that made the miracle happen: the love and compassion of the good-humored and unusually wise boy did.
Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise. Home Alone shows a paradoxical story of the main character willing to show mercy toward his relatives who, for reasons that are hard to explain, refuse to accept it because of their stubbornness. So he sets out to find those who want to be close to him, that is to accept his love and care.
There must be a miracle in a Christmas story, after all. I believe that it was Kevin who was the real miracle of the movie, with his pure soul and a heart open for everyone who needs help.
At the end of the first episode, Kevin smiles as he looks out of the window at the old neighbor’s son and his wife who came to visit the lonely old man. The man isn’t alone any longer. At the end of the second episode, Kevin leaves his family, who are busy unwrapping the presents that he’d earned, and hurries to the park to congratulate the homeless woman on Christmas and to give her a dove-shaped Christmas tree toy as a sign of his friendship.
Apparently, his true friends were those who felt even more lonely and whom Kevin helped to break free from this isolation. Unfortunately, he still remained alone at his own home.
That’s the message that I’ve taken out of this old Christmas movie. It seems that the authors wanted to address the viewers: “Look around: are there people in your families who stay alone like Kevin? Are some of your relatives rejected and sentenced to isolation within their own family? Stop being mad at them: show mercy to those people. Give them the chance to love you and to be loved by you.”
God said that it isn’t good for a person to be alone. Especially if one finds himself alone at home among his or her family.
Translated by The Catalog of Good Deeds