top of page

New Series: A Therapist "Ruins" Your Favorite Movies

Hi friends! I hope your holiday season (if you celebrate) is cheery and bright. If it's not those things or is not what you expected, know that you have my sincerest warm wishes for you and yours this time of year and all year round.

Today, I thought we would delve into a fun new series called 'A Therapist "Ruins" Your Favorite Movies,' where I break down the psychological issues and mistakes within various movies beloved by most people. If you've ever wondered what a therapist thinks of a certain movie, send it my way. I'd love to watch it and give my thoughts. A slight disclaimer: I actually don't watch a lot of movies. My husband is a major movie buff and can name actors in films and discuss movies he has seen a million times. Me, however? If you ask me if I've seen something, the answer is probably no. So this will be a fun experiment for me as well.

The first movie I've selected for us to examine more closely is the much beloved holiday movie "Home Alone," written and produced by John Hughes. For those who don't know the premise (and in this case, even I, a non-movie watcher, know the premise), Kevin, an 7 year old boy in a large well to do American family is left behind accidentally when his family takes a trip to Paris for the Christmas season. While he is home alone, he has to care for himself and defend the home against two wily burglars with all sorts of hijinks and booby traps. As a child, I recall laughing at how funny the pranks were and finding the whole movie to be a joy to watch from start to finish. As an adult and a mental health therapist, I found it to be a different experience this time around. I turned on the movie early this past Saturday morning to share it with my kiddo, and I have to say there were several things in the film that I found astounding/appalling. For the sake of brevity, we will identify three themes in "Home Alone" below.

First, can we just address that the way the family talks to Kevin and to each other is the opposite of kind and loving? In fact, I would argue that at multiple points in the first 15 minutes, Hughes establishes a consistent pattern of emotional neglect and abusive language in the McCallister family. When I had watched this movie previously, I would laugh at these opening scenes because they were funny, and judging from the rest of the audience's reaction, I wasn't the only one who found the chaos humorous. I sometimes wonder if we all were laughing because we recognized that this is the way most families talk to each other and it hurts to acknowledge the damage it might be doing or might have done to us as children. Kevin is described as "bratty" but I would argue that he had to be behave like a brat to get anybody to notice him and try and get his needs met. It's like I tell parents (and myself sometimes, because I'm a parent too) "If you tell your child they're a brat, they will behave like a brat. If you notice only the bad, you will only get more bad behavior." Nobody in this family notices the good. Nobody speaks to each other kindly. The children bully each other, and the adults allow it to go unchecked.

Second, Kevin is little, and as such, exhibits a large and creative imagination. He imagines the furnace is alive. He sees the nutcrackers singing a demonic version of 'Silent Night.' Kevin believes Buzz, his older brother, who spins an elaborate tale about their neighbor Mr. Marley being a serial killer. Without kind, loving, secure adults, a child, like Kevin, can quickly blow something they've heard or seen out of proportion. This emphasizes something I think we forget as adults: children are afraid of many things that seem normal or routine to us. I have to thank Hughes for this reminder, because sometimes it can be hard to be patient with children when they seem to be afraid of something that isn't scary necessarily to you. Fear, however, is a driving emotion for all human beings, and we would do well to remember that the fear a small child feels is the same fear adults feel, just about different things.

Third, while the McCallister family had some grave missteps in the beginning of the movie, there was an opportunity for redemption at the end. Kate, Kevin's mother, moves heaven and earth to get back to her son once she realizes he is at home alone. Kevin works to protect the family home, despite wishing for his family to disappear at the beginning of the movie. He wishes for his mother to come back to him. The most touching scene in the movie is between Mr. Marley and Kevin in the church. Kevin realizes that he has "not been a good boy" this year, and Mr. Marley encourages Kevin to 'confess' to a higher power and ask for what he needs. Kevin also learns, contrary to popular belief, that Marley had a life with a family and children and grandchildren in it. The rumors of him being a serial killer seem untrue. He reports he misses his wife, and Kevin listens thoughtfully to an old man, who needs to talk about how much he desires to be with his family again, thus solidifying a redemption arc for American families everywhere. Even when we treat each other poorly, fall out of touch, miss the mark as parents, or neglect our love for one another, there is always time for those behaviors and patterns to change. Until there isn't any time left, like in Marley's case.

To sum it up, "Home Alone" has both good and bad themes in it, psychologically. The main theme of being together and valuing relationships is one that stands out as a positive takeaway. Let's all hope for working towards finding value and peace in our relationships in the new year. We can be 'home alone' but why would you want to be? If you need help working towards that goal or any others, feel free to email me at


bottom of page