Rocketman is a bittersweet entanglement of cinematic production meets harsh reality. Producer David Furnish has sewn the trials and tribulations of Elton John’s colourful and drug-fuelled life into a seamless, big-screen tear jerker.
The moments of musical greatness are jaded by a pervasive undertone, and Rocketman audiences are reminded that whilst Elton’s life makes for a gripping big-screen narrative, it’s also tragically true. Among heartbreak and addiction, Elton (Taron Egerton) also grapples with his sexuality and identity – rendering him a complicated mismatch between a magnificent performer and a deeply confused man.
Yet what seems clear from the onset is Elton’s relationship with his Father is both inherently toxic and fundamental to his continuously complicated, off-stage identity. Here’s why Rocketman should be applauded for opening up the conversation around mental health and familial relationships.
#1 Returned Soldiers Grapple With Mental Health
Elton’s father, Stanley Dwight is a deeply affected man. The initial scenes of Rocketman depict Elton’s early childhood, and a time when Stanley has returned home from the military. Dressed in uniform and carrying a bag, Stanley returns to family life with a mind still grappling with the brutality of life in the army.
The experiences of returned soldiers with post traumatic stress often follow a similar theme – they’re easily aggravated, withdrawn and often desensitised to their own and others’ emotions. Stanley quite clearly bears a similar burden, and whilst his brutality toward Elton shouldn’t be excused, it should certainly be remembered when one makes judgements of Stanley’s cold behaviour.
#2 Context Matters
Audiences of Rocketman are positions to feel a stab to the heart when Elton’s father brutishly orders him around. In combination with his unaccepting stance against Elton’s homosexuality, Stanley generally presents as an authoritative figure to his son – one that’s harsh and unforgiving. Yet what’s worth remembering is context. Elton grew up in 1950s England, a time when ideas of masculinity and what it meant to be ‘a man’ dictated many fathers’ approach to parenthood. The ‘tough love’ mentality was certainly a pervasive undertone throughout many of Elton’s early years.
#3 This Is A Single Perspective
The response to Rocketman has been largely one of praise and positivity, yet there is also conversation around what perspective it takes on – and particularly whose. The film is from the standpoint of Elton; it depicts his own view of his father. The nature of a perspective is that it’s inherently biased, and so many are choosing to take the film’s harsh depiction of Stanley Dwight with a grain of salt.
There’s overwhelming evidence from people estranged from Elton that Stanley Dwight was no where as dark as he’s made out to be in the film. It’s possible that Elton is projecting year’s worth of struggles onto his father, and the result is a combination of Elton’s inner-struggle and his father’s deep seated issues – making for an inherently complicated relationship.