A lot of people are wondering if Rudderless was based on a true story. Sort of.
I mean, really, the answer is no. There was no guy whose son shot up a school and who then lived on a boat and started a band using his dead son’s songs.
The movie isn’t trying to depict actual events. What Rudderless depicts is the very real struggle of the parents of kids who committed school shootings.
As sad as it is, kids shooting classmates has become prevalent in the United States. Since 2000, there have been at least 148 school shootings. 40 of those took place in 2014!
With so many shootings occurring, Rudderless attempts to show us the perspective of the parents who have to live with the fact that their child went into a school and opened fire. Narratives have always been about “theory of mind”. Narratives show us how someone in a situation feels, how they react, what they do.
Films like Beautiful Boy and We Need to Talk About Kevin have taken very serious and dramatic approaches to what it means to be the parent of a shooter. Kevin focuses more on the childhood and domestic situation leading up to the shooting, as well as some of the aftermath. While Beautiful Boy looks at the parents in the immediate aftermath of their son’s shooting.
Rudderless differentiates itself by moving ahead a couple of years in time. Instead of being about the situation leading up to the shooting, or accepting that the shooting happened and their child was the one who did it, Rudderless is about how a parent might move on, how the grieving and healing process works. In that way, Rudderless is less documentive (where Beautiful Boy and Kevin show us what happens without pointing toward solution) and more instructive.
So, no, not based on a specific true story. But the truth is there are hundreds of parents out there who have lived a story similar to this.