Alex is on a bit of a Wes Anderson kick lately, and here we are. Two kids, maybe early adolescents. Sam and Suzy.
Sam's parents died, he's spent time in foster care. He has a foster family, but he's having some trouble fitting in with them, and with the scout troop he's part of. Some of that is him, but some of it is just the other kids. They regarded him as different, or separate from them, so it was fine to not like him. I can't decide whether they decided this as a group, or if they each came to the conclusion individually. One of the kids tells Sam that he never liked him because none of the others did, but how did they decide on that? Someone had to be the first to be unfriendly, right? Or was it an unconscious collective decision?
Suzy's situation is different. She has her family; her mother (played by Frances McDormand), having an affair with the 'sad, dumb" local police officer (Bruce Willis). Her father (Bill Murray), is sort of aware of the whole thing, but has no interest in confronting in, preferring to drink and chop wood in his pajamas. At night. That's not scary. And her three little brothers. It isn't an outwardly hostile home to Suzy, not a Cinderella and her wicked stepsisters situation, but there are certain things she just isn't happy about, and no one is particularly interested in finding out what those things are or how to address them. Everything is about how to "fix" her.
The two have been corresponding for a year, and when the opportunity arises, Sam bails on his scout troop, they meet up, and spend a couple of days wandering Penzance Island. Their parents, the policeman, the scout master (Edward Norton), and the scouts track them down eventually, and in that way scared, stupid people often react, they try to crack down, rather than again, address the problem. Well, Scout Master Ward tries talking to Sam, but it's in a roundabout way, asking if he really doesn't want to be a scout anymore. The Scouts are all Ward knows, and I suppose he thought they're a positive influence, or could be. Beyond that area, he's at a loss.
That's one thing about the film I'm not sure how to parse. Sam has people who try to understand him, or help him, in their own way. Ward and Sharp, the policeman, who's having some realizations about his own life. I don't feel like Suzy has that opportunity. Her mother may have tried, once, afterwards, but she seemed to think the proper approach was to remove all traces of Suzy's adventure with Sam. Forget about that brief time where you were actually pretty happy and content. The moment where Suzy confronted her about her affair with Sharp, there was a chance, if Mrs. Bishop had discussed it frankly, but she closed that line of inquiry down as quickly as possible.
Maybe because if one has their parents, people assume it's all right, or they shouldn't intrude. Mom and Dad will handle it, ignoring the possibility that the parents aren't interested in handling it, or aren't capable of doing so. Sam's orphaned, so they figure he hasn't anyone, so they're more inclined to step in.