Set in the late 1970s Indiana town of Bloomington Breaking Away is a classic film about the townies versus the affluent outsiders, who in this case are the university students. Dave Stohler along with his best friends Mike, Rod and Moocher are recent high school graduates. The townies are called the ‘cutters’ because many of their parents worked at the limestone quarry that supplied the stone for the University of Indiana buildings. One of the apparent ironies is that the students who use the buildings do not value the people who built these structures. The four boys are easily differentiated individuals, but have the common quality that none of them have a focus to their lives and so are unmotivated. Dave is slightly different in that he is interested in bicycle racing and fascinated by the Italian Cycling Team.
True to the title of this movie, Dave Stohler along with his best friends Mike, Rod and Moocher are trying to break away from their families, community and self-image. One of Dave’s methods of separation and individuation is evidences by his fascination with anything Italian. This constantly irks his dad, which motivates Dave further. In the course of this, Dave uses Italian speech and objects to further press the wedge between himself, his family and society. Although generally played in a good hearted, comedic fashion it these introjections of pathological objects further differentiates him from his family and society.
The boys’ separation and individuation grows as they clash with the university students. This conflict intensifies when Dave falls for Katherine who is a student. Dave successfully represents himself as an Italian exchange student in his courtship. Cyril is beaten up as a result but that does not end the friendship between the boys as evidence between the following exchange between Mike and Cyril “They want a fight. We’ll give ‘em a fight!” to which Cyril replies “We rednecks are few college paleface students are many. I counsel peace.”
Dave idealizes and mirrors the Italian Cycle team, credits them with virtues they do not possess and devaluates his father in comparison. In particular, his father’s business practices come into play, particularly those that are less than upright and above board. Dave’s father has a car dealership and his refund polices as such that he has cause to avoid legal scrutiny. Before that he worked the limestone quarries. Those quarries,, the rock taken out of them and the university structures built with it serve as a metaphor through out the film. Dave and his dad even have the following exchange. “You guys still go swimmin’ in the quarries? Sure. So, the only thing you got to show for my 20 years of hard work is the holes we left behind?”
As the conflict with the university students progresses the friends develop their identities and successfully negotiate their conflicts. Dave’s love of bicycling is central to the theme of this movie. He wins an Italian bicycle. The group enters into the “Little 500” bicycle race. The Italian cycle team comes to town for a racing event. Dave competes, keeps up and tries to speak to them in Italian during the race. Although Dave is trying to engage and identify with them it has an opposite effect on the Italian team and one of the team members makes Dave crash. This puts everything in a new light and Dave observes, “Everybody cheats. I just didn’t know.”
Although family therapy was not common at that time and in that sector of American society it would have helped them understand each other better and reduced Dave’s need to act out and identify with the Italian cycle team.
In brief the treatment expectations for this family would be to increase their ability to communicate with each other. This would be done by; increasing communication between all the family members, helping Dave set reasonable future goals; encouraging Dave and his father to come to terms with each other on a more adult basis and bettering the understanding among the family members. The family would be able to openly and honestly exchange their thoughts without the same degree of conflict that was displayed in the movie.
Dave and his father used everything Italian as a communication tool instead of engaging in simple and straightforward discussion. Successful treatment would manifest as the ability to engage each other successfully, lovingly and openly. Another treatment goal would be for Dave and his friends regain their sense of purpose and begin to envision what their futures could hold. This type of vision and goal setting would foster motivation instead of frustration and allow the boys to direct their energy in a more positive manner. In the course of this movie, the boys went from totally unmotivated, swimming the quarries their parents excavated to provide the stone for the university. Another indication that treatment was succeeding would be Dave working towards reasonable goals and so better his life.
Hollywood Beta. (1979 - 2013). Breaking Away. Retrieved 02 19, 2013, from Hollywood Beta: http://www.hollywood.com/movies/224829/breaking-away
Magarrell, R. L., & Barley, D. E. (n.d.). Breaking the Chain of Negative Family Influences. Retrieved 02 19, 2013, from Brigham Young University: http://marriageandfamilies.byu.edu/issues/2005/Summer/breakingchain.aspx