On “El Bolo” and sons and fathers …

“Do you scream?” Twelve-year old Alfredo asks.

“No,” Pablo replies.

They are sitting in the Hellevator two-hundred feet up above an amusment park in Madrid.  And then it drops.

And they both scream.

Twelve-year old boys are lovely.


Full of bravado and machismo and piss and vinegar, but still able to cry and blush and punch and forgive and cuss and yell and scream and hug their mothers – and live entirely in the moment.

My own boy is just ten.  He’s on the cusp of the great changes of life.  The bravado emerges by degrees – only to recede – like when he sees kissing on television; he blushes and grins and tucks his chin down on his chest, but he doesn’t look away anymore.  He’s learning about humility, about taking his punches; he’s learning how to ride his bike around the block without looking back, and that it’s ok to go to the lake by the dark forested park by himself with just his watch.

One day he’s fearless, the next day cautious, but soon enough he’ll be testing other boundaries, standing in defiance of us, attempting to prove his place as a young man.

Yes, this is a great age for boys.


But not for all boys.  Some of them get dealt a bum deal that threatens to turn them from the beautiful investigators and creators that they are, into angry young men and embittered old men.

I hear lyrics from John Mayer’s song, “Daughters” in my head:  “Boys you can break / You’ll find out how much they can take,” and I wonder “why?” Why do we think that?  Why do we think that toughening boys up, breaking them, will make them better?  Now, I’m not advocating the emasculating of boys & men. Not at all. In fact, quite the opposite. I think too much of that goes on these days in the media as it is, but that’s a post for another time.  But I do wonder why some think that hardening them makes them better men.  And that’s why the character of Alfredo’s father in El Bolo, is so wonderful.  He’s a compassionate father, a tender father, but a man who knows where his strength is.  And it is clear that his son is emulating that.

Because that’s what boys do. And I didn’t understand that as clearly until recently when I got an email from a friend who said how much my son talked about his dad.  You know, the sort of conversation between two boys that goes, “my dad’s car is faster than yours,” or “my dad could beat up your dad.”

But back to El Bolo.  This movie won the Mejor Película (Best Film) Goya Award in 2001 and it’s a movie about friendship.

And child abuse.

And because I, for one, didn’t have to navigate past the names and faces of any actors I already knew (Canadian, American, or otherwise), I was able to become fully immersed in the story of the characters, and it’s a powerful one.  Achero Mañas, the director, takes the viewer into Madrid and into the lives of  two boys and their families, and one day, when my boy is a bit older, I’m going to watch it with him because it’s a reminder that we do have a lot to be thankful for, and it will be a good opportunity to talk about a few things: strength, and family, friendship, fathers, and choices.



3 thoughts on “On “El Bolo” and sons and fathers …

  1. Larissa…so much to think about for mothers and fathers with young boys. Mine are 24 and 13. I am on the cusp of the ‘teenage years’..again. Very different to my daughters journeys at the same age. Parenthood is full of challenges…the upcoming years will be wonderful..it will be the making of you and your children. I can tell from your writing you are ready for the challenge! Wonderful post..again Larissa..strength to strength..I can feel it! 🙂


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