"Even if this young man—who is quite sullen—really is spending every single moment on his phone recording his family's activities, he's still not partaking in them."
You can watch above, but for those who prefer words: We see a family celebrating the holidays, absent Sullen Male Youth, who is preoccupied with his phone. See?
And so on.
Eventually, SMY commandeers the television set with his phone. The big reveal? He's been shooting a heartfelt iMovie this whole time! Everyone cries, especially Hysterical Aunt:
Let's set aside for a moment that the phone placement of SMY doesn't actually line up with resulting the home video (maybe he wrangled gramps for extra takes?). Ignore that our lead Rimbaud fanatic is almost certainly SnapChatting or Candy Crushing or god, I don't know, Evernoting Smiths lyrics for a sunny day. Allow that all holiday ads glisten with a sheen of smarm. That still leaves us with two insurmountable problems with the aptly titled "Misunderstood:" the basic premise, and its fallout.
Even if this young man—who is quite sullen—really is spending every single moment on his phone recording his family's activities, he's still not partaking in them. He's experiencing the holidays at an anthropological remove. He's a skulking auteur, keeping the world at retina display's length. He's not letting anything come between him and his iPhone, not even the memories he cares enough about to record.
And while the big reveal at the end is absurd—how many SMYs will be secretly recording home movies next week?—the family's reaction is even more annoying. The tears don't seem to come from looking at what a wonderful weekend they all just had together. It's a palpable ease of tension, a living-room-sized mylar balloon that pops with a gust of calm. That boy is not a monster, they exult, he's just been creeping.
The reason they are surprised and relieved, of course, is that most young men and young women—and tweens and olds and anyone, really, with access to a smartphone—act exactly like Sullen Male Youth. All the time. We Instagram meals before we eat them, tweet jokes about news stories we haven't yet read. If anything, the unfortunate default mode for many of us is hiding behind phones, inside apps. Any other use case sends us into paroxysms of joy and relief.
There's one perfect moment in "Misunderstood," and I'll leave it below. There's nothing to say about it, really, other than that it captures the joy and spirit of the holidays in a single frame.
Except that, also, there's not a smartphone in sight.