I went and saw Clint Eastwood’s film Gran Torino (2008) tonight. In the film, Eastwood plays Walt Kowalksi, a Korean war veteran who, at the beginning of the film, has just lost his wife.
In the opening scenes, it is clear that Walt does not have a close relationship with his sons and his grandchildren. One son repeatedly tries to convince him to move out of his Michigan suburb, that has become mostly an immigrant neighborhood, and move into a retirement community. Walt refuses.
Throughout the film, we learn that Walt’s wife was a devout Catholic, while Walt hardly ever darken the doors of the church. According to the new young priest, her last wishes were for Walt to go to confession. Which, of course, Walt refuses.
As Walt grieves the lost of his wife in his own ways, his next door neighbor’s teenage son, Thao, is being pressured by his cousin to join an Asian gang and be a “real man.” Thao finally agrees, and his initiation is to steal Walt’s 1972 mint condition Grand Torino. The night that Thao attempts the robbery, Walt hears activity outside, grabs his gun, and heads out there.
Little did either of these guys realize, but this moment would begin a mentoring relationship between Walt and Thao (who lives with his grandmother, mother, and older sister). Walt mentors Thao in handy-man type projects around the community, in getting a job, in selecting the right tools, and in life in general. Through this mentor relationship, both Walt and Thao grow.
The gang activity in the community gets worse. Walt, in an act of self-less and redemptive love, decides to finally put an end to the violence. I don’t want to say anymore because it will ruin the ending, but Walt does go to confession. Eastwood’s closing scenes make the movie totally worth it!