I strongly recommend that all young parents, particularly those blessed with sensitive-hearted children who demonstrate exceptional gifts at a very young age, watch the movie “Searching for Bobby Fischer.” In fact, I would encourage the entire family to watch it. As its name implies, the movie is the story of a young chess prodigy, but it is as much about two contrasting ways of parenting him as it is about the object of the parenting. In fairly stereotypic fashion, the young boy’s father is eager to hone his son’s unparalleled skills and immediately seeks out the finest instruction money can buy. When his “suspicions” about his son’s abilities are confirmed by the masters, dad pushes his son into competition and troublingly the pressure to succeed – to make dad proud or at least to avoid disappointing him – begins to mount. Winning is a foregone conclusion, but the price to be paid for it is equally predictable, particularly as the gentle spirit of the young boy begins to emerge.
Enter mom – actually, mom is always there (mostly in the background) providing an emotional backstop, working to preserve the essence of her son’s childhood, serving as a human buffer for her husband’s increasing demands on their son’s time and expectations of performance begin to spool out of control. She is the voice of reason, the protector of the playful spirit that once defined her son’s pre-competition life and, when it matters most, she is intent on being her son’s voice and that it be heard. The movie is about a quest to strike a balance – both from a parenting perspective and from the perspective of the young boy – a means that will allow both to fully explore the parameters of “the gift” without sacrificing everything that matters most in the process. But it is about so much more than that. It is a beautiful story of innocence, patience, perseverance, friendship, love and respect. And it is filled with wisdom, some of which is passed on by a homeless man that the young boy befriends at a public chess board in a local park.
If you’re looking for a movie to rent on a rainy day or a lazy Sunday afternoon, a flick that the entire family can enjoy and benefit from, you’d be hard-pressed to find one much better than this – and I don’t even like chess!