Who are the cutters?
I’ve seen Breaking Away so many times now I’ve memorized almost every line in the movie. I can’t begin to describe how entertaining Cyril’s wit is to ease tensions between the group of lost boys. After the third time of watching the movie, I began to realize how the “cutter” group resonated with my friend group. Almost all of us were lost within ourselves at a point-in-time in our lives, not knowing whether college was realistic. Or knowing if starting a job back home and cutting school altogether was the better choice. Many years passed since our adolescence when these decisions weighed on us. In the end, we all figured out our path & continued to reach new fathomable experiences in which changed us for the better, as if every piece of life, no matter the circumstance, is efficient for the puzzle to fit all together.
It wasn’t until my friend Ollie Lecter, the music maker, asked me, “so why are they called the ‘cutters’?” At first, the easy answer to his question was: “because they cut school and did their own thing.” However, I pondered his question with due diligence. So why are they called the cutters? After significant thought, I realized their name derives from their parents. Dave (the bike racer) and Cyril (the witty, easy goer) and Mike (the most lost with reality), and Moocher (the boy with no parents) all have fathers who cut the limestone. The same limestone derived from the quarry the gang of boys spent most of their time breaking away from reality & the real world. And that same limestone was used for the buildings at the University of Indiana.
The students at the University of Indiana (whom we can acclaim as the antagonists) give the ‘cutters’ their name. What the students don’t realize: if the cutters never existed, neither would their education. The University’s built on the backbone of those who abandoned their aspirations for further schooling. The ‘cutters’ chose to work right away to support their fulfilling lifestyle. Immediately, a new window of theory about this movie slid open & led me to ask, why are the boys so lost at a grasp from further expansion?
Dave comes from a single family with no siblings. Neither of Dave’s parents attended college. His father has worked his entire life, and his mother is a stay-at-home. Dave’s mom seems to be the most civil character in the movie, having no bias towards anyone. Instead, shifting her energy in consistent empathy with her husband’s and son’s hardships. Dave’s father is hard on his son since he’s worked his entire life and had no college education. Dave’s father’s aspirations for his son stem from an awakening on his goals in life, subconsciously wondering where his boy wants to go? He knows that Dave can’t ride his bike forever and continuously bring home trophies; age will soon catch up and teach him a lesson.
Dave, on the other hand, has one goal in mind throughout the entirety of the movie. Dave wants to race with the Italians–that’s all he’s thought about since he first stepped on the peddles. There’s also another misconception about David, his desire to love others. Dave faces constant berating back home from his father. I figure there’s a void he’s trying to fill within the realm of love, even when he meets the sorority girl & takes her out. However, Dave’s never believed in himself, frankly. Instead, playing another role the entire time as someone else (the Italian). I wonder if that’s his defense mechanism, in hopes those who he has strong feelings for never figure out who he is: merely a cutter.
Cyril is similar to David; however, his relationship with his father seems to be more civilized. When David asks about what Cyril wants to do & if the college entrance exam is realistic, Cyril explains that his father (who’s more understanding of his failures) accepts him regardless, like when he lost his basketball scholarship, which led him to give up on school altogether. And the idea of taking a college exam to Cyril was not entirely about passing. Cyril merely wanted to fail to show his father that at least he tried, full-well knowing his pop wouldn’t be disappointed, and if anything, laughs it off altogether. Cyrils attitude derives from his relationship with his father and never having a sense of support when it comes to ‘failing’ something. Sure, we all fail once in a while. Failing is an imperative component of life. But instead of building up the determination to do better the next time, Cyril’s witty humor & laid back attitude set him back even further. Although he’s unsettled about the developments in the Middle-East, which was a world power issue in the 70s, he copes with humor rather than addressing what’s in front of him for what it is–and this goes with everything he faces. Cyril is the least most athletic in the group too. I learned this at the end of the movie at the final bike race. Inevitably answering the main reason why he didn’t get that basketball scholarship in the first place: he was too unathletic, and I assume his father must’ve forced him to play the sport in fear his boy wasn’t smart enough to get by with just good grades.
Moocher seems to be the least lost character within the film. He is the shortest guy in the group with the biggest heart. Moocher never attempted to go to college. Instead, he follows his friends around while sheltering away his private life from the group. Nancy, his soon to be wife, is what’s keeping him away from the group. Because that’s a paramount commitment & he fears the gang will either abandon him for growing up or disparage him for such a substantial life-changing choice. Moocher even goes out of his way to look for work, and this wasn’t to impress his new wife but to show by example to the gang, it’s time they each go their way and grow up. Unfortunately, his tenure at the car wash doesn’t last more than one minute. After being called by his nickname: “shorty,” he smashed the time clock and waltzes away in grandeur. Throughout the movie, Moocher displays his most substantial reactions when addressed by his peers or the college students by “shorty.” Moocher’s insecurity stems from his image. His insecurities also derive from his lack of parental guidance. His parents never introduce themselves & we never know why his mom is missing in the first place. His father is currently living in Chicago, searching for work in a struggling economy & selling their house in Indiana (where Moocher lives all by himself). Moocher is neglected and only has his friends and now Nancy. With Nancy, maybe he’s filled that void of abandonment and can finally walk down his path confidently.
Mike is the most lost out of the boys. He was once the high school quarterback & admired by everyone at school. When Mike left behind the grades and aspirations to go to school, it all went away from him–and without them, Mike begins to get lost within himself. Unfortunately, he starts to address his friends as losers, which I’d assume is because of his current state of insecurity. Mike loved his pedestal & the popularity that came, but now that it’s gone, Mike becomes an entirely different person. For starters, he hates home. Mike metaphorically sends a signal to the boys by changing his voice to someone from the south, playing a different character. Mike wants to escape from a reality he’s stuck-in, and move to the middle of nowhere so no one can bother him. In hopes, leaving him abandoned, angry and distressed. Mike’s brother still lives in town and watches over the boys as a Police officer. Mike never mentions his parents. And having a much older brother, who has the power to take away his only form of transportation. This is where we see the real Mike–with no parents and a brother who’s raised him his entire life. As athletic as Mike is, he’s only good in one arena, being the quarterback. And when he isn’t in his realm, he isn’t himself. The college student, who soon discovered their quarry, aggravates Mike and accepts Mike’s challenge to a swimming race. Unfortunately, Mike loses the race in his realm but not in his arena. After losing the race, Mike suffers a deep cut to the head. However, after being impaired, he continues on swimming & not giving up. The college student showed an expression of fear & astonishment, full-well knowing Mike has more than just anger within him, it’s the heart and determination to get what he wants, and that indubitably scares him.
All the boys are different; there’s no doubt about that. But what’s essential to know is that they are just like everyone else, if not better. Dave would soon go to college and meet a French exchange student. But we don’t know what happens to the rest of the characters after the race. I’d assume Cyril got a minimum wage job and continues to live at home. Moocher moves to Chicago with Nancy to live with his father and starts a family of his own. And Mike could’ve moved to the Dakotas to look for work or still lives in Bloomington with his brother. These boys are just figments of our imagination; after all, this is only a movie. But the message that lies within the film is that no one truly knows what they want to do with themselves. Life is a journey just like riding a bike along the road, or filling failure with humor, or growing strong to make up for your size, or breaking away from it all.