I ended up watching the movie “Riding the Bus with My Sister” because I heard that people either love it or hate it. I’d say I do a little bit of both.
The movie is apparently based on a book by the same name, written by Rachel Simon. I want to find this book, because I think it would be a good read. In the movie at least, it’s all about what happens when the father of a mentally challenged woman dies, and the one left to step up is her sister. Beth has lived independently, but with a lot of help from her dad, so now they have to figure out new ways to do stuff. In spending the time with Beth, who does a lot of cruising around on city buses, Rachel learns a lot about her sister that she hadn’t really stopped to think about.
I couldn’t stop laughing at the way Beth Simon was portrayed. I have met people like that. I kept thinking of a particular girl that my mom had worked with. Someone came into the classroom and asked where the teacher went. Mom said she thought she’d gone to get some air, but the girl was there and piped up, “She’s gone for a smoke!” That’s what this girl reminded me of. I also thought it was kind of cute how they showed Beth carrying a little bag of her precious belongings. That’s so like another girl I knew. You didn’t touch that bag of stuff, nor did you separate her from it. There were so many things about her that made me laugh and reminded me of kids I’d known.
The stuff I didn’t like had more to do with holes in the plot of the movie. I think they tried to cram in way too much way too fast. For example, all through the movie, there were flashbacks. You saw that the dad left the mom and the kids, and you saw the guys the mom would go out with. At the end, you saw her living with a real pig who Rachel says is an ex-convict. Then there was one scene that showed Rachel and her brother taking their stuff and going with their dad. They keep saying they’ll be back for Beth, but we never see any more flashbacks after that. Did they ever come back for her? Or did they leave her to live with mom and the creep? What happened with that? If they left her, why was her dad so involved later? Was it out of guilt?
Another giant hole shows up at the end. Beth really hasn’t changed over the months that Rachel spent with her. She still has a broken stove, can’t cook, drinks coke and throws gummy fishes in it, but Rachel just leaves, and there’s no mention of supports. Um, the whole reason Rachel came to stay with her was to find replacement supports for those her dad had provided, “get her on her feet.” I don’t think she did. How can she just leave her like that?
There was one scene that left me utterly conflicted. Her sister and her dad convinced Beth that she needed to get her tubes tied so she wouldn’t have babies. But at the last second, she said “I’ve changed my mind.” They put her out anyway.
When you look at that on the surface, you think that’s horrible. But honestly, seeing her through the movie, if she needed her appendix out, if she was scared enough, she’d say she changed her mind. I had a hard time getting utterly upset that they did do it. She wouldn’t remember to take the pill, and what the hell would she have done if she had a baby? If she didn’t live alone eating gummy fishes, wearing mismatched shoes and not seeming to do much caring for herself without help, I’d totally be saying without reservations that what was done was horrible. But after seeing how she lived, I really couldn’t get all upset about it.
The movie did make me want to read the book. But darn it all, it doesn’t appear to be in audio. Booo! Has anybody read it? What did you think? I hope I can find a copy somewhere.