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Home > Why ‘My Girl’ is the Most Underrated Coming-of-Age Movie

Why ‘My Girl’ is the Most Underrated Coming-of-Age Movie

Everyone should see 'My Girl,' a coming-of-age movie starring Macaulay Culkin as Thomas and Anna Chlumsky as Vada.

The Eye-Opening Coming of Age Film With Undeniable Heart

My Girl takes risks with its film, while other films shy away. It’s hard to believe a movie about a young girl obsessed with death could touch hearts, but it does. Vada’s dad runs a funeral parlor within their home, so this has thrown her into death from a young age, especially because her mother died while giving birth to her. Vada is brilliant and curious for her age, which is part of the reason she is so compelling to watch. Death is sometimes a hard thing to showcase, especially with the effect it has on young individuals. However, this film might be the most powerful portrayal of death in any coming-of-age film.

The Theme of Death

Death is the main theme within this emotional movie, which makes it so powerful because it showcases death in many different ways and because of its profound effect on the people who knew the deceased. Death and raising children as a single parent are difficult topics to discuss, especially to a child and certainly to one directly affected by both. The film encourages children to think about, discuss, and understand death despite how scary and hard it is. Since Vada’s father does not talk to her about issues such as her mother, her period, and death overall, it leads to hardships in Vada’s life. He treats her more like an assistant than a daughter, as he practically ignores her unless he needs something. Vada is petrified when she gets her period and thinks she’s dying. Often, people believe it is the mother’s job to talk to their daughters about these changes, which does technically make sense as those who are genetically women are the ones who go through this part of puberty. However, since her mother was not in the picture, it was his job to explain everything to Vada so she could be prepared and not too scared when it happened. Surprisingly, this movie was made in the 90s, but it has a timeless feel and is exceptionally relevant over thirty years later. Death and grief, as well as how the two affect someone’s life, are always going to be prominent societal issues.

Blame 

Vada believes it is her fault that her mother died. Though she is young, this topic should’ve been explained to her, like death in general. Death should be explained to her more than most children because her father is running a funeral parlor inside their home. It’s one thing if she never saw it because it was at his job, and the home was an escape from that. However, because she can walk into a room and find a dead body, this should be explained. Another possible aftereffect of not understanding death is the fact that she is a hypochondriac. Within the first minute of meeting Vada, the audience sees her telling her father that she has cancer and is dying. He completely ignores her and asks her to grab the mayonnaise to assist him in making his sandwich. This is only one example of how he disregards Vada and her worries. 

Though the father is grieving, he should be talking to Vada about all these hard things. Even though she didn’t know her mother, it’s the battle of any child with a single parent; they think about the fact that other children have two parents and they only have one. Furthermore, since Vada’s mother died during childbirth, she completely blames herself as the reason her mother is no longer in her life.

Since her father does not talk to her about her mother’s death, this only pushes her paranoia about it further to the surface. When he begins a relationship with someone else after only the two of them have been together for so long, he does not talk to Vada about it. This makes Vada’s response of being avoidant and unreceptive wholly expected. He does not tell her he is dating someone new, and she has to find out through his new girlfriend that they are getting married. He didn’t explain what this meant for Vada at all. Her father’s approach makes Vada fearful of change, especially ones involving love and a maternal figure, which she never had. Vada has to come to terms with and accept this woman as someone she can put her trust in, all on her own, without her father’s guidance, which is a deeper issue in Vada’s growth. 

The Most Emotional Moment 

When Vada’s best and only friend dies due to an allergic reaction from a bee sting, it is heart-wrenching. Beyond the fact that viewers should have an emotional attachment to these characters at this point, Vada is going through so many changes and has been drastically affected by death. It is a truly emotional experience to lose a friend, especially at a young age. Moreover, for someone who doesn’t even understand death despite it being a central theme in their life, it is surely taking a toll on her. Anna Maria Chlumsky, who plays Vada in this film, as well as the sequel, does a truly extraordinary job of showcasing this grief and sadness when she sees her friend, Thomas’ body, played by Macaulay Culkin (Home Alone). This is the infamous, gut-wrenching scene where she asks where his glasses are and cries, “he can’t see without his glasses.” If viewers are not in a puddle of tears during this scene, something is truly wrong. Now, Vada is losing someone she actually knew, and considering she already feels responsible for her mom’s death, this will feel like a further attack on herself. Though she knows the bees are at fault, she is the common denominator.

The Legendary Story

My Girl is an amazing coming-of-age film that deserves so much more credit than it gets. Furthermore, it showcases so many changes and emotional turmoils. Sure, many movies have a main character with a dead parent; look at almost any Disney movie. However, this film encourages children to ask hard questions and have the children’s parents communicate with them instead of leaving them in the dark and cleaning up the mess afterward. Though the death of a friend is present in other coming-of-age films, such as another emotional film, Bridge to Terabithia, the after-effects of the death seem so much more powerful. Furthermore, the after-effects show the realization from Vada’s father that she was left in the dark, so he begins trying to clean up that mess while Vada still suffers. These are just some of the reasons the impact is so much greater than that of other films. My Girl is a truly emotional film that everyone should experience at least once. Viewers will not be the same after watching it. This film is truly timeless.

My Girl is legendary. It is available to rent or buy on Amazon Prime now and for free on BYUtv.

My Girl (1991) Official Sony Pictures Trailer

Source: Dead Talk Live

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Author

Author

Sammie is an undergraduate student at Arcadia University where she is majoring in English and creative writing and minoring in media and communications. Sammie enjoys writing about her favorite movies and tv shows and hopes to have a career in the media industry.

Elke Simmons' writing portfolio includes contributions to The Laredo Morning Times, Walt Disney World Eyes and Ears, Extinction Rebellion (XR) News/Blog, and Dead Talk News.