The film begins with a black background and the title, Strength In Love, in white letters. There is an eerie/sad instrumental music track at the beginning along with Eric’s narrative. The narrative begins with him telling his favorite part of Thanksgiving is that he loves making mashed potatoes for himself and the Brandts and the importance of knowing they trust him not to mess it up. While speaking, he shows a picture of him at a dinner table on the left side of the screen and a separate picture of Justin at the dinner table on the right side of the screen later comes up. The sad music is played when images representing negative times in his life are shown. Eric utilizes voice over to tell about his experiences. Examples include the following: Eric discloses his mother was a heroin addict and his dad did not know about him until he was 10. The image shown when disclosing this information is streets with graffiti. Eric also speaks of not always having someone’s house to sleep at so he would try to put himself to sleep by spinning on the merry-go-round. This makes sense to me because kids usually see parks as happy and safe places. The merry-go-round is an image repeated in the story. When he first uses the image of the merry-go-round, I do not know that’s what it is. It looks to me like footage taken of a neighborhood, but there was this bar in the way. I then see the bar is a piece of the merry-go-round. The sad music is played when Eric talks about his life in a gang. It was really profound when he questions how the gang could be his source of protection if he had to get jumped to get in. When getting stabbed while taking care of a drug deal to gain respect from the gang members, Eric asks where is protection now. All of the images depicting the negative times in his life are black and white, with the exception of the photo of the gang. I speculate this to be because he at some level felt like they were family and deserved a color photo like the Brandts or wanted to truly expose who they were, a gang. After getting stabbed Eric decides to move to Colorado with his dad. The images are now in color and there is a picture of mountains when he says this. Unfortunately, things don’t work out with his dad and he is homeless again. The image displayed during this part of the narrative is a dead end sign on a road. Though Eric is homeless again, he decides to stay in school because at least the campus is a warm place. Images of books are shown. After his junior year, Eric finds out he has a new basketball coach. An image of a basketball on the floor is shown. The new coach, Justin Brandt, who stands up for Eric for what Eric describes feels like the first time(an opposing team mate calls Eric a derogatory name), plays a pivotal life altering role in Eric’s life. There is an image of the whole team, then it slowly closes in on Justin and Eric only. I really liked this approach. The story also uses a repeated image of footsteps in the snow.
To me, this signifies extreme conditions, homelessness and loneliness. Justin would see Eric doing his homework on his way home and one day stops to invite him to dinner, which eventually turns into a weekly event. Right before a fade to a black screen, Eric discloses that Justin and Melinda asked him “to stay with them not just for the night, but for good” and he did. There is then a short pause in the narrative with a fade to the black screen. The music then changes to a more inspiring instrumental, the following pictures are now in color and Eric discloses “after 884 miles I found a place to eat Thanksgiving with a real family.” I feel like I have been on this journey with Eric. The images he uses and his narrative allows me to feel his 884 mile lifelong pursuit of a “real family”. There are then happy pictures of Eric, Melinda and Justin. There are also pictures of what I think are some of Melinda and Justin’s relatives which suggests Eric has an extended family through the Brandts relatives. Additional images used include a street illuminated with street lamps, the Youth Foundation Logo, a person getting jumped into a gang, police putting up caution tape around a crime scene, stars exc. I also enjoyed the use of the CDS logo with the tree and roots coming up. This made me think of growth, transformation, and life. Lastly, I appreciated the dedication to Justin and Melinda Brandt as the final image. I see it like saving the best for last. I think this story was extremely healing for Eric, motivational to others and a tribute to the Brandts. Check out Strength In Love by Eric by clicking on the link.