Luckier Than He Knows
Boys' homes and so forth are generally shown in films as being corrupt, and it's true that the boys in this movie needed counseling which was never even mentioned. In fact, even at the happy ending, no one mentions the counseling the boys still need. Perhaps need even more after the movie's events are over. It's also true that growing up in the system isn't the happiest life possible, and the boys here are in one way or another so far gone that there isn't even mention of putting them into foster homes. All of this is true. However, even being in a boys' home has got to be better than what could have happened to these boys if they weren't cared for. All I'm saying is that I've already reviewed one movie about someone who died in Alaska because he didn't know what he was doing; if that guy had been eleven, it would have actually been a tragedy. Especially if he had been raised to believe that it was the best possible life.
Moon Blake (Jimmy Bennett) has lived in the woods with his Pap (J. D. Evermore) as long as he can remember. Pap is worried and angry because a road has been built into their woods, and some rich lawyer (John Goodman) had a hunting lodge built. This is bad news for the Blakes, but it only gets worse when Pap falls and breaks his leg; he dies of his injuries after telling Moon that the law is looking for him, and he should wait until spring and then head up to Alaska, where he will be able to live free. As he is getting ready to head out, Moon meets the lawyer, Mr. Wellington, who summons the constable (Clint Howard) to take him to a home. Because Moon is eleven. At the home, Moon befriends Kit (Uriah Shelton) and Hal (Gabriel Basso), and he decides that, when he breaks out, he's going to take them with him. In fact, he decides that he will break out all the boys and they will live in the woods until it is time to move up to Alaska, because Moon has a very limited understanding of the world.
To be perfectly honest, I believe the way Pap raised Moon is child abuse. Most of the reviews of this movie talk about how heartwarming it is, but think about it. The reason the law is after Pap is that he is squatting on the land; the reason Pap wants to go to Alaska is so that he can find some land no one is using. Moon and Pap talk to a storekeeper (I'm not sure), and that's about the only person Moon talks to who isn't his father. He barely remembers his mother, and he has no friends. He doesn't know anything about the world other than what his father chooses to teach him, and we later find out that there are people who would very much like to meet Moon that he doesn't even know exist. He doesn't understand that not every boy is equipped to live out in the woods, and he certainly doesn't realize that the medicines his father taught him about cannot cure everything--despite the fact that they didn't do his father any good for his broken leg.
I don't think it's ever established what's wrong with Kit, and I think that may be the right choice. After all, Moon wouldn't understand whatever-it-is. The two most likely candidates so far as I can tell are some form of cancer and AIDS. Certainly that would explain how Kit managed to get sick despite not having a chance to be exposed to much in the way of germs. He also gets a big handful of pills with his meals, and that implies AIDS to me. It is also true that the boys in the home don't exactly have the best parents; if they did, they wouldn't have ended up in the home. And Kit is too young to have gotten AIDS through any method that involved his own deliberate actions. I don't think it's ever made clear what Moon's mother died of, but given the life he's led, Moon probably wouldn't know much about the variety of diseases to which humans are prone. I'm also reasonably sure that his father would be the sort who wouldn't explain AIDS because his pure little boy will never have to know about it.
In many ways, the movie seems about as naive as Moon himself. Certainly it never quite condemns his father for the childhood he had, though you can kind of see John Goodman wanting to and just sticking to the old "never bad-talk the parent in front of the kid." Constable Sanders goes about things all wrong, but I don't want Moon to be living alone in those woods, either. He's lucky that he didn't get hurt or sick himself. He's lucky that he was living on the land of someone interested in helping him. He's lucky that there was a way out of the system for him. And honestly, he's lucky that his father wasn't a whole lot crazier, because most of the time, someone who cuts himself and his child away from civilization like that has some pretty serious mental health problems. No one in the film uses the phrase "paranoid schizophrenic," possibly again because Moon wouldn't know what that even meant, but there's a strong implication there. I don't think it's meant to be, but it is.