Home Alone Movie Breakdown | Family Bonds

Posted on November, 2023

Home Alone – An Introduction

Home Alone is a timeless classic Christmas comedy movie released in 1990. The film was written and produced by John Hughes, and directed by Chris Columbus. The basic premise of the movie is that a young boy, Kevin McCallister  (played by Macaulay Culkin), has been left at home accidentally by his family, who have taken a holiday to France.

Although, superficially, the plot seems nonsensical and ridiculous, the story is richly layered and connects with the audience on a deep level. This blog attempts to break down the film, provide some analysis of key events and characters in the film, and what makes it such an impressive Christmas story.

This film also teaches us a lot about parent-child relationships, and about growing up. From a tutor’s perspective, it provides a real insight into the ways in which you can build confidence within a student by providing them with challenges, and about the importance of fostering independence.

Check out our Podcast if you’re more into watching than reading:

The Significance of the Title

The movie has one of the most poignant titles in movie history. “Home Alone”, does not initially stir up positive emotions, and does not suggest that we are about to watch a comedy. “Home Alone” unfortunately represents the reality for many people all over the world. It is estimated that this Christmas, 8% of people will be spending Christmas alone in the UK. This reality is especially true for those who are above 65.

sad looking out of window hand on glass home alone

 

Moreover, there are probably many more people across the world who feel isolated, depressed, and as if they are walking alone through life. The movie itself alludes to this reality in the church scene with Marley. You can see that the church has the elderly isolated and alone in each pew. The movie itself, takes this dismal reality, and subverts it, placing a young person, Kevin, into this uncomfortable reality.

Bad Beginnings

At the beginning of the movie, Kevin comes across, in many ways, as a typical brattish 8-year-old. He is immature, and the movie highlights that he is unable to do little for himself. In the scene below, Kevin is told to pack his suitcase, and he looks terrified at the very thought. His elder sister, Megan, even describes him as “helpless”.

This focus on the helplessness of a young child, who has not yet developed the confidence and competence to complete basic tasks on his own is so easy to connect with. Perhaps even some adults feel this way.

In essence, the film is brilliant in its attention to these everyday facets of human action and nature.

His family’s negative reaction to his concerns is disappointing, to say the least; nobody offers him a caring word and empowers him with the belief that he can complete the task. Kevin’s tantrum and resentment towards his family seems natural and justified. All of this culminates in Buzz (his elder brother), eating Kevin’s pizza, and Kevin getting angry about the situation. At this point, the whole family turns on Kevin, despite his brother’s obvious wrongdoing. The audience feels that Kevin has been mistreated by his family and that there is a definite sense of injustice, as his brother is not reprimanded.

Isolated and Alone

To make matters worse, Kevin is then physically isolated from the family, as his mother sends him to the attic. Kevin told her that everyone in the family hated him and that it would be better if he didn’t have a family. A mother may find these words difficult to bear coming from her son, but she does not act well in this situation. Her harsh words are particularly traumatising: “Maybe you should ask Santa for a new family.” It isn’t however, unrealistic for anyone to say something in the heat of the moment that might seem regrettable on reflection.

What may be interesting to consider, is how the parent should respond in this situation. It is actually decidedly difficult to think of a decent response. What Kevin said, was decidedly harsh, but what would be the most reasonable response? The best response would probably combine an acknowledgement that the statement was harsh, but would also acknowledge Kevin’s feelings of insecurity. Saying that Kevin should ask Santa for a new family, is a snide remark that makes light of Kevin’s feelings.

If you want to learn more about the art of communication, definitely read our blog on How to Make Friends and Influence People:

How to Win Friends and Influence People – A Book for the Modern Age

Finally… Home Alone

Kevin, alone in the attic, is forgotten about, suggesting something about his insignificance to his family. A ridiculous series of events leads him to being forgotten:

  • The family had a power cut which caused their alarm clocks to reset.
  • They had to rush around the house and perform a headcount of kids but unfortunately counted a neighbour instead of Kevin.
  • The night before, milk was spilt on the passports and plane tickets after Kevin and his brother got into a fight.
  • Kevin’s ticket ended up getting used during the clean-up and was thrown away with a handful of red napkins used to clean up.

Despite all these ridiculous events, forgetting Kevin displays the inattention and insignificance of Kevin’s role within the family. There does not seem to be statistical evidence which points to there being a strong correlation between birth order and neglect within a family, nevertheless, it seems to be the dynamic which permeates within the McCallister family.

Anyone, however, can identify with this feeling that their feelings are insignificant and do not matter, and this is what makes Kevin so relatable to anyone watching. “Home Alone” therefore touches on themes that are readily identifiable to anyone.

The Magic of Childhood

As Kevin is such a young child, he engages in magical thinking. He constructs this idea that he has actually succeeded in wishing his family away. Again, this reveals how “Home Alone” captures the magic of the Christmas spirit and the beautiful naivety that comes with childhood.

Psychoanalytically, this also reveals how our psychological immune system can take up and reconstruct narratives to protect an individual from the truth. He enjoys this illusion at first and embraces it like a child, using the opportunity to break the usual rules that his family would usually impose upon him.

Thanks to this delusion, he is actually able to feel more at ease than the rest of his family. As they move into adulthood, they have lost the protection that magical thinking can provide. Even Megan is worried:

Old Man Marley

Old Man Marley is portrayed as a mysterious and somewhat intimidating figure at the beginning of the movie. There are rumours and urban legends among the children that suggest he is a sinister character. However, as the story progresses, it is revealed that Marley is actually a kind and compassionate person.

He serves as a parallel to the character of Jacob Marley in Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” in the sense that transformation binds the two together. Old Man Marley transforms in Kevin’s mind from the sinister stranger into the ultimate saviour in Kevin’s hour of need; a true angel and not an angel with a filthy soul. On the other hand, Jacob Marley is instrumental in the transformation of Scrooge.

Old Man Marley’s storyline in “Home Alone” involves reconciliation with his estranged son, and his character ultimately emphasises the themes of forgiveness and the importance of family. In this way, while there are differences between Old Man Marley and Jacob Marley, they both play roles in promoting positive messages within their respective stories.

Marley eventually reunited with his family:

The Wet Bandits

The Wet Bandits, Harry Lyme (played by Joe Pesci) and Marv Murchins (played by Daniel Stern), serve as the main antagonists in the movie “Home Alone.” Their symbolic role is primarily that of comedic and exaggerated villains, providing a contrast to the film’s more heartwarming themes.

Comedic Antagonists: The Wet Bandits are portrayed as bumbling and incompetent criminals, making them more comical than threatening. Their slapstick interactions with Kevin McCallister, the young protagonist, contribute to the film’s humour.

Foils to Kevin’s Resourcefulness: The Wet Bandits unwittingly become the recipients of Kevin’s elaborate and creative booby traps, showcasing the resourcefulness and ingenuity of a child left to his own devices. This adds an element of irony and humour to the film.

Symbol of Christmas Spirit: In the end, the Wet Bandits are thwarted by the neighbourhood’s mysterious and benevolent figure, Old Man Marley. This twist adds a touch of redemption to the story, as it suggests that even those who may seem villainous can experience a change of heart during the Christmas season.

Reflection of Family Theme: The threat posed by the Wet Bandits also underscores the importance of family and the sense of security that family provides. The film ultimately emphasises the significance of being together during the holiday season.

While the Wet Bandits primarily serve as comedic villains, their presence in the film helps to highlight the central themes of family, resourcefulness, and the transformative power of the holiday season.

Kevin’s Character Development in Home Alone

Like most great stories, Kevin has a rich character arc that brings him from the bottom of the mountain to the top. He starts the movie as a typical brat but ends the movie showing outstanding levels of maturity and courage in the face of danger.

The maturity and growth of the character are revealed perhaps most poignantly in the shopping scene, where he takes on a typically adult role and seems to carry it out well. Even the shop assistant is fascinated by his level of maturity.

Perhaps the bags splitting at the end stand for Kevin having taken on too great a burden? Or reveal that Kevin is still lacking the experience necessary to take on the responsibility of childhood.

Kevin McCallister’s character arc in “Home Alone” follows a classic pattern of growth and self-discovery, which can be analysed through the lens of literary theory, particularly the concept of the hero’s journey and psychological development.

Read more about structuring a story and character arcs in this post.

A Hero’s Journey in Home Alone

1. Departure: Kevin’s journey begins with the departure of his family, leaving him home alone. At first, he revels in the freedom, but soon he realises the challenges of responsibility.

2. Initiation: Kevin’s initiation into the hero’s journey involves the defence of his home against the Wet Bandits. He learns to fend for himself, facing various challenges and overcoming obstacles.

3. Return: The return phase is marked by Kevin’s reunion with his family. Through his experiences, he gains a newfound appreciation for his family and an understanding of the importance of love and togetherness.

Develop into a real hero by learning with us

Psychological Development in Home Alone

1. Isolation and Independence: Initially, Kevin enjoys the freedom of being alone but soon realizes the loneliness. This phase reflects the psychological development of independence and self-reliance.

2. Confronting Fears and Insecurities: As Kevin faces the burglars, he confronts his fears and insecurities. His resourcefulness and courage in setting up traps demonstrate his personal growth.

3. Appreciation for Family: The final stages of Kevin’s arc involve a deepening appreciation for his family. His initial frustration with them transforms into gratitude, highlighting emotional and psychological maturity.

Literary Theory – Psychoanalytic Criticism

Using psychoanalytic criticism, Kevin’s character arc can be analysed through the lens of Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory.

1. Id, Ego, Superego: Kevin’s initial joy at being alone might be seen as an expression of the id—seeking pleasure and avoiding discomfort. His later sense of responsibility and concern for others, especially his family, reflects the development of the ego and superego.

2. Defence Mechanisms: Kevin’s creation of booby traps to defend his home can be interpreted as a form of defence mechanism, a way to cope with the fear and anxiety associated with being alone and facing potential danger.

3. Resolution of Conflict: Kevin’s reconciliation with his family signifies the resolution of internal conflicts. The journey becomes a symbolic representation of psychological growth, moving from a state of isolation and fear to one of connection and security.

Kevin as a Role Model

Kevin demonstrates a great presence of mind throughout the movie. The way he deals with the challenges that he faces provides a great lesson to us all. “Home Alone” reveals how a young person has to face their fears in order to grow. Furthermore, the eventual reconciliation between Kevin and his family reveals the importance of family love in fostering a child’s growth.

Beyond being a troublemaker with a penchant for ingenious booby traps, Kevin becomes a symbol of resilience and resourcefulness for young audiences. His ability to outsmart the Wet Bandits showcases that even in the face of adversity, a child’s creativity and determination can lead to unexpected triumphs. The narrative encourages children to embrace their own unique strengths, fostering a sense of empowerment.

Be as creative as Kevin by developing out of the box thinking with riddles.

Kevin’s Parents

For parents, Kevin’s story underscores the importance of open communication with their children. The misadventures that unfold when Kevin is left home alone emphasise the potential consequences of assumptions and misunderstandings within a family.

Learning from Kevin’s experiences, parents are reminded to foster an environment where children feel comfortable expressing themselves, sharing their concerns, and seeking guidance when needed.

Additionally, the film suggests that occasional mischief in children is a natural part of growing up, and parents need not despair if their child exhibits a mischievous streak.

Instead, it encourages parents to approach such situations with patience, understanding, and a willingness to guide their child toward positive choices.

Find Out Why Your Child Needs to be Reading:

Why Reading is so Crucial for Your Child’s Development

Moreover, Kevin’s character challenges stereotypes about the capabilities of young children. He showcases hat even when faced with challenging circumstances, they can rise to the occasion. The film subtly advocates for recognising and nurturing the potential in every child, emphasising the idea that they should not be underestimated based on their age.

In essence, “Home Alone” extends beyond its comedic and slapstick elements to deliver messages about the resilience of children, the significance of effective communication within families, and the acceptance of the occasional mischief that comes with childhood. Kevin’s character becomes a conduit for both children and parents to reflect on their own roles, relationships, and the importance of understanding each other’s perspectives within the familial dynamic.

Conclusion

“Home Alone” is one of the most important movies of our time. People look back on the film with great nostalgia, and even when I talk to students now, they generally express how much they love the film as a timeless classic. But people often comment if the movie were to be made nowadays it wouldn’t have been a problem for Kevin as he would have the internet and a mobile phone. Well, check out this advert from Google to see how that would play out. Plus, it makes your heart fill with joy watching the grown-up Macaulay Culkin reprise the role:

Want a free consultation?