Linoleum Movie Walkthrough and Explanation. Disclosure form #2513a subsection 12 – I adore Jim Gaffigan. His 20-minute sketch on bacon is inspired. (How much longer can he talk about BACON?) So, while this isn’t a comedy (per se), I still will not be really objective in any way, shape or form. Just making sure that disclosure is out there. I will say this though – Linoleum definitely fits snugly in the world that is THiNC. – you know those sorts of films you want to have a beer with friends afterwards, and discuss it? Yeah, it’s worth one of those discussions. And while you probably won’t ever have the opportunity with friends to do that around the bbq, you can join us here in the comments section, and discuss it with us! So YAY! But, before I begin, please don’t scroll past the trailer if you haven’t seen the movie yet… it’s riddled with spoilers.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that this movie was recommended by Lisa over on the Discord server’s Patreon family. “Recommended” is a really weak description of what she did… it was more like there were hostages involved, and guns pointed at people’s heads. No. I joke. One of the perks of being a Patreon Member is you get the privilege of ordering me around, and I excitedly jump to. Otherwise, you can post your recommendation in the red tab below, and I’ll get to it when I get to it. It’s a system that works in keeping the lights on here. So, if you enjoy what you read, be sure to jump in the Patreon waters, they are warm.
Let’s take two passes at this movie – the one that the movie presents to us – and then afterwards, we can do a chronological pass after everything is revealed and we know what is actually going on. Because both are relevant. Let us go then, you and I…
Linoleum Walkthrough #1 – Movie Literalism
Cameron is a failure. It’s obvious in the way he carries himself. It’s obvious in his throwback sad life, and the fact that his wife is divorcing him… it permeates him. He drips and oozes failure. The worst of it? He had impassioned dreams. He once aspired to dream to be an award-winning scientist. But somehow… someway? He has lost the luster of that dream, he missed catching that shooting star. Somehow, everything has gone proverbially pear-shaped.
The failure has diffused out to his daughter Nora and his wife Erin. They all saw what he could have been, and what he is. And it’s clear that something horrible has disconnected in his brain. Cameron is the host of a children’s science television show… and it’s stuck in the past, it’s stuck in the midnight time slot. And when he pushes for the Saturday morning spot, he’s told that the show is being bought out, and that he will not be the host anymore. It is the culminating moment in a life of near misses.
Simultaneously, we watch as a scientist crashes out of the sky with his corvette, and enters into his life, and upends everything. The fact that this guy looks like a smarter, more handsome, more put together version of himself is strange, but it just continues to add insult to injury. Well, licking his wounds, he decides he is going to make something of his life after all. When a Apollo space craft randomly crashes into the backyard of his home, he decides he’s going to rebuild it. To relive the glory days of his aspirational goals. To reach for the stars one last time.
But his wife Erin just thinks he’s completely lost it now. She, too, has her own goals, and one of them is a big promotion that she is finally offered. But it will take her two hours away… and she is curious about what the divorce will do, will she move? Should she leave Cameron and Nora behind? But it’s obvious to Erin that her husband is either having a mental break, or he’s having a midlife crisis. And their daughter Nora seems to be far away as well… she obviously smart, but she seems like she is getting in more and more trouble at school as she is spending more and more time with Kent’s son, Marc. She struggles to figure out her own place in the world, and ultimately, she realizes just being herself is good enough… and that she loves this weird kid is good enough. And when Kent attempts to run his son down, we see that everything isn’t exactly we thought it was…
The Reveal of Linoleum
As the chaos of that encounter unravels, we begin to see that nothing is what we thought it was. The woman who is constantly standing on the periphery, watching? We wondered if maybe it was a ghost? Or some phantom? But no, it was actually Erin in her older years. Wait, why is she old? And Cameron? Oh, he is suffering from Alzheimer’s or some sort of cognitive disorder anyway. And the jumbled chaos is a result of his fragmented memories, and inability to remember. But, okay, if Cameron is old… and Erin also is old? Eh? Who is Nora? Well, Nora is Erin. And Kent is actually Cameron’s father… and Marc… is a young version of Cameron. And his memories of his father taking his show away from him were just delusional fears manifesting themselves in his mind. They are mental manifestations of his worries about not being good enough for his father.
Linoleum Walkthrough #2 – Chronological Order
We can’t know for certain, or 100%, the real timeline, but we can ascertain some things from context and from what we are shown as the movie unfolds. Historically, we know that Cameron lived in the shadow of his father who was a brilliant scientist. And when he was young, he respected his father greatly… and all he wanted to do was to become his dad. But as he grew up, his mother died, and things got harder, and his father got more strict. It became clear that his father really wasn’t a fan of Cameron… and that nothing he could do would ever make him happy. Worse, when Cameron began hanging out with Nora (Erin), his father didn’t understand why he was throwing away his future on this stupid distraction.
And as Cameron grew up, his father would turn out to be right in a lot of awful ways. While he did win a scientific award, he flamed out quickly and washed up on the shores of a horrible science kid’s show that was doomed to fail. But it was when Cameron decides to make a rocket that things turn… we find out that Erin, his wife that was moments earlier going to divorce him, turns down the job, and instead begins to help her husband in his Quixotic dream of building the rocket. And it’s in this moment of clarity we start to see what is actually going on.
I hated this movie over the course of the first 45 minutes. Why? Because I can identify with Cameron more than I would prefer to. I have started to turn the corner on my own life, my early life dreams and hopes are behind me. I have had a chance to play out my early life hopes. And I’ve watched most of them slip right through my fingers.
Because the movie is being lensed through the perspective an individual with Alzheimer’s, there is a lot we cannot know with 100% certainty. We don’t really know if the divorce was imminent. But we can know that things were rocky. One thing we can know is that Erin did pivot on her career and chose her relationship with Cameron over some new opportunity. Well, she pivoted in some way or another. She must have leaned into her husband and his issues. You don’t start building a rocket in the garage after being laid off from your job because you are fine. (I was laid off a couple years ago (which was the best professional thing to ever happen to me) and I can tell you without a doubt, your brain can go in really dark directions after hitting a wall like that. And that is what we are seeing here with Cameron as well.)
Linoleum Move Walkthrough and Explanation
Did you notice how I didn’t talk about Cameron’s son Sam? Yeah, Sam never existed. Not in the past, not in the future… not ever. Apparently there is a post out there somewhere detailing out the importance of Sam never talking. That it is a key indication that Sam never existed. So, if that is the case, and Nora is Erin… can we be fairly confident that Cameron and Erin didn’t have any kids? Why, yes, yes we can. Why does that matter? Well, because it means that Cameron and Erin had very specific priorities that specifically focused on their careers and professional success. (Please, yes, I know, not all couples that don’t have children sell out to corporate America. That’s not my point.) But we know that Cameron was chasing his father, and the success that his father had managed to obtain.
Personally, I think Linoleum is the disjointed mind ramblings of an old man considering his life. It’s the story of a man from the vantage of his regret. Nothing else. So everything that we experience is in this lens. Sam? Regret. His failed kids show? Regret. The pending divorce? Regret. We actually have no idea how good the science show was. Why? Because we are just seeing it through the eyes of a man who thinks he is a failure. It actually might have been quite good. (Never mind the fact that I actually kind of enjoyed the scenes where we watch the show.) We just don’t know.
And what about Kent? The father? And usurper of the show? He is the dark nemesis of the movie that silently lurks in the background and plots the demise of our hero. But what is that all about? I remember once telling my own father that I would never be like him – that I wouldn’t be a massive failure – that I would make something of myself. Yeah, I wasn’t very nice. But you know how kids can myopically say things, in spite, which had nothing to do with the actual conversation that should be happening? Yeah. But as I’ve grown up a bit, started my own family, started my own career in a totally different direction, I realize that we are all just trying to survive. Day in and day out, we are just trying to hold it all together, to keep the plates spinning, etc. I, too, have my own regrets that I’m sure my own father has as well.
Similar to my own regrets, I’m sure you too have regrets. And if you don’t, you are 12… and live in a literal polyurethane bubble. Better yet, I bet you have been chasing the demons given to you by your own parents in some form or another. And that is what is happening here with Cameron and Kent, his father. We can see that Cameron is struggling to understand the failures, recursions, hard right turns, that his life took. He’s trying to grapple with his own feelings of failure. And as the movie ends, we see that Erin is there with him. That regardless of how bad he thought it had gone, he was still connected with Erin – that the two of them were in this together. That his commitment to her was the one true thing in his life. It’s the one thing that mattered.
If you are looking for other movies like Linoleum, maybe try out a few of these recommendations-
If you enjoyed the Sci-Fi details of Linoleum, then maybe: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Ruby Sparks, Safety Not Guaranteed, The One I Love. Or more of the social/drama side of things, Anomalisa, Blue Valentine, Big Blue, Lost in Translation, Adaptation, etc., etc.
Edited by: CY