The BoarderBy:  D Craig Peterson

A film can be powerful – especially in giving victims a voice. Think Precious or Schindler’s List. But could a 100-minute dramatization show the challenges of parenting severely unattached children?

The answer is yes.

In 2012, Jane Ryan – a long-time parent of children from hard places and a clinician – brought The Boarder to life. Her passion for telling the whole story is obvious.

Recently my three youngest sons (now adults) and I watched The Boarder DVD – once with some arm twisting from me and again with a more inquisitive eye. Not only are they survivors of early trauma. They also lived with three older siblings whose behaviors paralleled Carl, one of the film’s lead characters.

Who could be more qualified to rate The Boarder?

Boarder pic“Two thumbs up!” my youngest son stated confidently.

All agreed that the plot was authentic, the emotions real and the fall-out well-sequenced. Carl’s behavior was no big surprise. He put on the charm – especially with his new dad and the initial therapist who believed she knew more than the mom. I only wish the word triangulation had been used in the dialogue.

Carl clearly showed his dark side – from passive aggressiveness to “in your face.” The flashbacks were particularly effective in reinforcing the lasting effects of early trauma. My sons even asked.

“Were we left alone like Carl when we were babies? Did we fend for ourselves too?” When I answered “yes,” a flood of questions led to a healthy discussion about their fears and feelings, yet today.

As expected from an expert like Jane Ryan, the mom took the brunt of Carl’s abuse in one scene after another – sometimes subtle, other times blatant. For me, the unraveling of her emotions hit close to home.

But surprisingly, the scene that affected my sons the most was the mom finally learning about Carl’s past, after demanding access to his records and combing them for hours.

“Is that why some people treated you bad?” commented a second son. “They didn’t want to hear the truth.”

My efforts through the years suddenly seem more genuine.

Although the dad’s performance was equally strong, he left my sons chuckling more than any other character. He was the “fall guy.” Through his spiritual arrogance and subsequent reluctance to recognize the facts – much less believe them, Carl constantly manipulated him. Oh, the irony!

His scenes were well-placed and showed one of the greatest frustrations felt by parents. People are quicker to believe their children than them.

Most importantly, The Boarder gave my sons a voice. They aren’t alone – neither am I. Watching a diverse group of families interact with a highly trained professional near the film’s end was powerful – and could also be for other audiences who need to know more.

These families needed hope after so much loss, betrayal and blame.

They also needed the appropriate tools to parent differently.  And to be truly therapeutic!

To order your copy of The Boarder, use this link.

Update:  The Boarder has been picked up by Lifetime Movie Network (LMN) and an edited version of the film, entitled Troubled Child, is premiering this month (Jun 2015).  It will be shown several times throughout the year.
  • June 18 @ 5:30 pm – Indianapolis, IN
  • June 19 @ 7:00 pm – Rochester Hills, MI
  • June 20 @ 10:00 am – Indianapolis, IN
  • June 24 – Council Bluffs, IA
  • July 23@ 4 pm and 6 pm – York, NE
Jane Ryan, The Boarder’s author and filmmaker will be attending many of these viewing parties and will be available to answer questions.


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