05 January 2016

Drinking with Students: A Story of Hope

Pat Mills' Guidance is a dark comedy of rediscovering oneself amid a sea of confusion and denial.

David Gold (Mills), a 30-year-old unemployed alcoholic steals someone's identity, becomes a high school guidance counselor, and imbibes with his students in his short-lived career before escaping from the police, robbing a slew of tanning salons, and turning himself into prison as a new-formed man.

Intertwined throughout the scenes are audio overlays of his own inspirational tapes from a previous career, juxtaposing his own narration of his excellence, happiness, and positive decision-making skills with visual evidence of binge drinking and smoking alone. Thus, throughout the film, we see first-hand the denial and mistrust of others plaguing David's mind as he ignores his doctor's cancer diagnosis, fails to pay rent, and insists upon living without changing his habits, even if it means "cutting off" the rest of his family.

The one item he consistently carries with him, however, is not alcohol-related—a photograph of his family. As the film progresses, David blurs out the faces of those in it with whom he becomes estranged, first his parents and later his sister. Indeed, upon hearing himself described on the local news as "pathologically immature," he pulls out the picture once again to scratch his own visage from the photograph. The next day, with the photograph in possession, he dials 911 from a nearby payphone and gives himself up to the police. In the following scene, as he addresses three other male prisoners, he comes out as gay only because of his renewed self-confidence and self-awareness, demonstrating the reformation, rather than destruction, permeating the fim. Ultimately, with newfound proper healthcare, a revolutionized identity, and a determined spirit, it is the local prison system that saves David Gold.

In this dark comedy, denial and confusion battle the "real world," and only hope wins.

David Gold (Pat Mills) imbibes hard liquor while embarking on one of his many bicycle rides throughout the film.
Image Courtesy of Noah R. Taylor and Search Engine Films

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