the civilized world that has neglected their inner development and ostracized them with unofficial diagnoses of "very troubled" and "emotionally disturbed."
Camping on their own, they are revealed to be bright, considerate, and optimistic: they navigate the forest, paint and read and dance, and share their rough pasts and hoped-for futures. In one of the movie's most honest and intimate scenes, as they talk about their families, Suzy says: "I always wished I was an orphan. Most of my favorite characters are. I think your lives are more special." Sam looks her in the eye and calmly says, "I love you, but you don't know what you're talking about."
Meanwhile, their parents and guardians, in the process of searching for Sam and Suzy, degenerate into shouting, finger-pointing, shoe-throwing fits. It's a wry portrayal of adults who claim more authority and respect than they deserve; beyond being funny to watch, such bad behavior offers a subtle explanation for why kids like Suzy and Sam, when helpless and threatened, respond to others with violence. The inverse relationship between age and maturity--that is, the older a character is, the more childish he or she is likely to be--is thematically repeated throughout the film. Take, for example, Sam's troop leader, scoutmaster Ward (Edward Norton), a critical yet ineffectual man who strolls through his camp of self-sufficient boys. He's adept at giving orders and issuing citations for uniform violations; when confronted with Sam's disappearance, he charges his troop with the search. When he wakes one morning to find his whole troop has vanished, however, he sits alone, mute, at a loss as to how to proceed.