Pieces of April We are always part of a family, no matter what role it has played in our lives. Certain occasions, most especially holidays, bring up vivid memories, fugitive feelings, fond moments, and enduring grievances. This theme Is creatively explored In Peter Hedges’ film Pieces of April. It’s Thanksgiving Day, and April Is preparing a feast for her entire family. What Is so unusual about that? Well, she’s always had a terrible relationship with her mother, Joy, and now the woman is dying of cancer.
As April imagines a disaster scenario, it begins to unfold through a series of minor teashops connected with the cooking of the turkey. Her family’s Journey from suburbia to a grungy urban area is no less riddled with difficulties, tension, and setbacks. The end result is a holiday film like none you have ever seen before. Hedges leaves plenty of room for us to step into the storyline and assess our own feelings about families, memories, connections with others, gratitude, and more, making this a perfect story for discussion.
The film runs 80 minutes and is rated PEG-13 for language, sensuality, drug content, and Images of nudity. For our review ND a plot synopsis, click here. 1. The Most Powerful Ties “Other things may change us, but we start and end with the family,” Anthony Brandt has written. “The most powerful ties are the ones to the people who gave us birth . It hardly seems to matter how many years have passed, how many betrayals there may have been, how much misery in the family. We remain connected, even against our wills. * What particular roles do each of the members of the Burns family play ? Joy, Jim, April, Beth, Timmy, and Joy’s mother? How would you characterize their life together? What outside influences have put pressure on them all? * What Impact have “the most powerful ties” of family had upon your development over the years? Describe the nature and meaning of your connections with your birth family. 2. Emotional Expectations In Why Mothers and Daughters Can’t Be Friends, Victoria Seconds writes: “Tension Is demonstrated In how mothers and daughters express ? or restrain ? their feelings for each other.
The contextual and temperamental differences that keep mother and daughter at odds with each other seep into their emotional expectations. History outdistancing, many daughters feel that no matter what they do, their mothers will remain forever unappeasable. ” * What seems to be at the source of the toxic feelings that April and Joy have for each other? Talk about the ways in which they both set up the Thanksgiving holiday up for disaster by giving in to their emotional expectations. * Share the story of an experience where your emotional expectations of an event ruined It for you.
What contextual or temperamental differences caused rifts In your relationship with your birth parents? Talk about how you have resolved these Issues. 3. Mutual Interdependence “If everything Is connected to everything else, then everyone Is ultimately responsible for everything,” Lawrence Shiner asserts in Invisible Lines of Connection. “We can Della nothing on anyone else. I en more we comprehend our mutual interdependence, the more we fathom the implications of our most trivial acts.
We find ourselves within a luminous organism of sacred responsibility. ” * Try to gauge what your reaction to April might be if she knocked on your door on Thanksgiving morning. Share your responses to the way she is treated by the tired man, the fellow tit the nasty mother, the African-American couple, the vegan, and Wayne. What do you think April learns in these encounters with her neighbors? * What recent experience has brought home to you your reliance upon others and the need to honor your spiritual connections with them? 4.
Breaking Out of the Prison of Suffering In Angina, Gregg Creche notes: “Our attention seems to be trapped within the limited boundaries of our suffering. But there is more to life than we are seeing. As we expand our view of life we may find that even within the context of our suffering, impassion, care and support are our close companions…. But how often do we make room for gratitude in the midst of our suffering? ” * Sum up your feelings about Joy and the way she is handling her suffering. Then share your responses to Jim and his constant efforts to put a positive spin on the family outing.
Talk about the efforts of Beth and Timmy and Joy’s mother to be good caretakers. What scene leads Joy to reverse her attitudes and actions? * Has there ever been a time when suffering brought out the angry person and the dark comic in you? How do the expression of these two emotions usually affect your Tate and the behavior of others? Talk about Crèche’s statement about the importance of expanding our view of life. How does it apply to your life? 5. Making Memories In Prayers to Sophia Joyce Erupt recommends a memory practice: “Recall a treasured memory of a loved one.
Sip on it mentally and emotionally, like a glass of good red wine. Write the memory down. Place it under a pillow or in your pocket. Touch it often with tenderness. ” * When Joy tries to come up with a good memory about April, she can’t do it. When Jim chimes in with a memory of April, it is about his own lending of tenderness watching her asleep. April tells Bobby a memory of a time when her mother hurt her feelings. What do their memories say about this family? * What is the fondest memory you have from your childhood?
There is no real recipe, except working with what the world presents from the point of view of basic goodness, compassion, and courage. The key is never to make a separation between your practice and your everyday life. ” * Pieces of April is about the little shifts of behavior and consciousness that signal an openness to personal transformation. How do each of the characters change over the course of the story? With which character do most identify? * When have you shifted in your life? Who else shifted at the same time? How does your spiritual practice enable you to stay open to change?