When Peel is just 5 years old, his father abandons him, taking Peel’s 2 older brothers with him, but leaving Peel alone with his emotionally unstable mother. It is implied that his father just can’t deal with her hippie ways, her alternative views on parenthood (ie, she is still breastfeeding her 5 year old). But in leaving Peel alone with her, he dooms his son to be raised in near-isolation with a loving but overbearing, overburdening mother. And I’m talking real isolation: they have a house in the suburbs, but they don’t even leave it to do groceries. Peel mixes her drinks and lights and her cigarettes and soothes her when she’s coming apart at the seams. And then she dies.
Well, she dies when Peel is 30 and basically still a toddler. He has not been socialized at all. He’s not exactly dumb, but he’s naive as hell, and he’s just been unleashed on a world he hasn’t met. His lawyer is likely crooked; the house is immediately in peril of being lost, so Peel takes on roommates who of course take advantage of him. Just as he’s losing faith in humanity, he gets the bright idea to go in search of the father and brothers who disappeared 25 years ago and haven’t been heard from since.
It’s a delayed coming of age, I suppose. Peel is so without cynicism he just feels so vulnerable out in the big bad world. But I think we should feel more protective of him than we do. There isn’t that much behind his character, in the end. The whole thing just feels too inconsequential, but it’s not as if it doesn’t introduce some heavy topics. It wades into the consequences of broken families but treats the whole thing with such sweetness and sentimentality, it’s actually tough to swallow.