It all started when I realized the only one of the three to be referred to by name was Topper. Topper's brother Paul owns the bike shop---most of the scenes in which the trio appears takes place in “Paul’s Bike Repair,” after all. The little boy, Aiden, is different. Only IMDB tells you his name is Aiden---but you never hear him referred to directly in the film.
This little detail creates a wrinkle, and with it two possible parallels for the little boys’ identity inside Lost Without You, connecting him to both Norman and Oliver. Both create very apropos “mirrors,” modelling relationships with which we are already familiar---or are just coming into focus---presenting them in a new and meaningful way. Because this could get a little complicated, we’re starting with Norman today.
If He's Norman...
It was this line, and the sweetness and innocence with which it was delivered, that caused me to peg the little boy as a mirror for Norman at first.
Like the little boy, Norman is innocent, optimistic about finding Sandy, and keeping hope alive at the same time. He is resilient, not allowing his enchilada-induced illness prevent him from continuing to pursue and eventually find Sandy.
And since no character operates in isolation, that means Paul, Topper and even Sandy must reflect some elements in Norman’s life as well.
We know Paul is Aiden’s father. Paul is loving, making the little boy two PB&J sandwiches. He is supportive and encouraging to his brother, telling Topper he could “ride with [Aiden] to school some day---it's just a couple blocks.” When Norman visits the bike shop for the first time, Paul is the “first line of defense,” in a sense, as Aiden takes Topper to “safety.”
Aiden only knew of Sandy what Topper described, but you get the sense from the enthrallment with his uncle's stories, and the eagerness with which he wanted to know how many times Sandy saved Topper’s life, that the little boy’s attachment to her was just as strong as Topper’s when he asks “you think I’ll ever get to meet her?” You might remember from some of the first Lost Without You posts after the premiere that I drew a connection between Sandy and Shane, one which holds in this comparison as well. Norman has always had a unique attachment to Shane, one really only seen or expressed on rare occasion, one of those being as she attempts to leave in From Paris With Love.
You also get a sense that the little boy intuitively understands that Topper and Sandy need to be together, and while we don’t really get to see this in Lost Without You, Norman’s support and encouragement of Oliver during Higher Ground reflects a similar intuition about the connection between Oliver and Shane. In Lost Without You, Norman does everything he can to bring Sandy back to Topper.
Of course, that leaves Topper to be Oliver in this scenario. Topper mentors Aiden in bike repairs the same way we see Oliver mentoring Norman in mail recovery. At the same time, Aiden also helps take care of Topper by helping him avoid his triggers, much like Norman, perhaps even unintentionally, helped Oliver avoid his “triggers” by seamlessly participating in the world order Oliver established in the DLO.
Similarly, Rita, Oliver and Norman in a pre-Shane world---or so we can assume considering we joined them at the onset of a transition period---was likely similarly routine. They, too, participated in a "divine transaction" of delivering letters late, but somehow right on time, but needed a divine delivery of their own. It took Shane's kinetic introduction to their insular and well-ordered world to break them out of the mundane and routine, ultimately giving each Rita, Norman and Oliver the courage to step "outside the DLO" as it were. She brought with her the same life and hope evident on the faces of Topper, Aiden and Paul as they stand just outside the bike shop welcoming Sandy to their family.
About To Flip It Again,
The Men In The Mirror: Norman | Oliver | Meet Grace