I just finished wiping my tears after watching American History X. When my friend gave it to me tonight, or last night, or whatever 1:48 AM, about five hours ago, qualifies as, she told me "you'll like this film, watch it!"
To me, the most poignant scene of the film was the two kids on the beach. The little toddler looking up excited at the sea gulls...it's hard to remember a time when those little pleasures of life were all that mattered. You could be planning a trip to the beach, and then your dad comes home late from work and is too tired to make it - and then you'd run to your mum crying. Then your dad would go out and get you some ice cream (Choco Bar was my favourite back then) and everything would be perfect again. It's weird when you think of how little has changed in the last ten years of your life, and then think of how much had changed in the previous ten years of your life. What is it that makes us who we are? What is it that changes us? And why is it, when we're on the brink of something really fresh and new and clean, that life deals you a slap in the face.
Sometimes, I think it's a test. At every step, you have a choice. When something happens, you have a choice of two reactions. The film need not have ended where it did. But that's what the story is. And when Derek screams "what have I done?", you know he has a choice in future. All the hatred could come rushing back and he could go back to the lifestyle he moved away from, or he could be who he has become and clean up his act. Maybe it's inherent optimism, or maybe it's logic, but there's a line in the film that makes you think he'd choose the latter. Danny writes "if you ask my brother when it all began, he'd say it was when our father died. But that's not true. It began much earlier than that." Using the converse of that logic, you get the feeling Derek will choose to clean up his act.
Most, if not all, of us have been in the sort of situation when we wonder which option to choose, what to do. You think you've made the right choice and then life does that cruel little "haha!" Do you roar with anger or get crushed under by anguish or cry your tears and then carry on doing what you know is right? Not every moment is one of resolution...but what matters is what we do with those moments when they confront us.