Lymelife (2009) is a family melodrama/coming of age film that focuses on the lives of two families deep in the surburbs of Long Island in 1979. Both homes are wildly disfunctional with the teen children trying to stay afloat while their parents go through a number of confusing and explosive relationship gyrations.
One family's father figure, Charlie Bragg (Timothy Hutton), is attempting to recover from a full blown case of Lyme Disease that he believes was caused by one of his deer hunting expeditions. He wanders through the back woods near his home with a high powered rifle looking for the deer that gave him the disease and aimlessly firing at paper targets stuck to trees oblivious to the fact that he could be shooting an innocent bystander meandering through the forest. Ultimately, this Lyme Disease becomes emblematic of the deterioration of the ideal suburban life both families attempt to build. In Lymelife, nature fights back.
The disease, a product of deer ticks from a deer population that now migrates through suburban developments like large squirrels, has ended Charlie's interest in work, his wife and his family. He veers between feeling laid low by the flu, wracked by headaches and anger from medical misdiagnosis that has allowed the disease to fully develop in his system and now is almost impossible to eradicate through the ingestion of numerous prescription drugs.
His emotional and physical condition has left his wife Melissa (Cynthia Nixon) at loose ends and his daughter ( Emma Roberts) an emotional victim of the family disintegration. Melissa works for Mickey Bartlett (Alec Baldwin) an up and coming contractor and is deep in an affair with him. Brenda (Jill Hennessey) is married to Mickey, knows of all his affairs, and has decided to continue their marriage, because she is a devout Catholic and frozen in despair about making any concrete moves that might disrupt her home.
The older Bartlett son Jimmy (Kieran Culkin) has solved his problem with the family disasters by joining the Army. His younger brother Scott (Rory Culkin) is 15 and while bearing the brunt of the home front troubles can't seem to connect the dots that everyone else in this universe has completed. This includes the Bragg daughter Adrianna (Emma Roberts) who likes Scott while he adores her, but prefers, since they are age compatible, to bury her sorrows with the Bragg disaster by chasing "older" boys. While the friendship between Scott and Emma will grow with all the appropriate complications and the adults will be forced to admit to some of their problems and attempt to work them out, the looming fear of disease and of invading nature still confronts al the principals in a variety of ways.
Brenda's fear of the tick borne disaster has led her to duct tape. She attempts to seal off Scott's arms, legs, neck and head with the all purpose tape. No ticks will work their way into her son's body if she has her way. Everyone one else is oblivious to the "dangers" of the natural world and even Brenda walks through it without taking the very precautions that humiliates her son on a daily basis. Her problems can only be solved by religion, confession and contrition, none of which interests her husband or her children.
Mickey is near his dream of a large development that will make him rich, leave his problems behind and cause his family to reconnect in the new home he has built on the edge of the woods near their present home. Jimmy's return to visit is a reason for him to straighten out Scott about every aspect of his life, including an introduction to violent reactions to anyone who has bullied his baby brother while he was away. Scott lets his brother's new found confidence rub off on him and now is able to respond physically and sexually to those he finds repellent and attractive.
While all the principals finally admit to acknowledging the endless and emotionally dangerous changes that have occured to them, Scott and Adrianna have tentatively decided to see if they can begin a relationship that will be free of such disease and lunacy. But everywhere they go, they are still wedded to the strange combination of developed landscape that is still bordered to the wild and many of their deepest discusssions occur along the railroad tracks that pierce the center of their world. The duct tape that Scott's mom has desperately wrapped around him still lingers, but its slow disapperance also means that the fear of disease has not yet paralyzed him or Adrianna, perhaps suggesting a connection with the wild world of nature can help redeem suburbia.