There Will Be Blood
I have only seen There Will Be Blood twice. Setting aside the first screening — which was so long ago I don’t even remember my exact impressions — , I now realize that one of the unifying themes is child abuse, specifically Daniel Plainview’s child abuse. His detachment from and, really, hatred toward humanity is, in part, a byproduct of said abuse. But where that facet of his character becomes the most noticeable is in three scenes.
The first, following the ignition of his oil rig on the Sunday Ranch, is shown in his brief conversation with Mary Sunday. In an earlier scene Daniel’s (adopted) son, H.W., informs him that Mary’s father, Abel, beats her when she doesn’t pray. In the conversation, conducted within earshot of Mary’s father, Daniel assures her there will be “no more hitting” from her father. Abel looks on, sheepishly and ashamed.
The second scene involves Daniel’s (impostor) half-brother Henry. He asks Daniel why he left Wisconsin while observing that Daniel didn’t get along with their father. With a subtly pained expression, Daniel informs Henry that he doesn’t like to explain himself, though he does mention that he “had to get away.”
In the third scene, H.W. — who has become deaf due to a rig accident — sets fire to Daniel’s house while Henry is staying there. The presumed motive is H.W.’s jealousy over Daniel’s growing bond with Henry, though some have speculated that H.W. knew Henry was a fraud from almost the beginning. Regardless, Daniel — despite almost being killed in the inferno — chases H.W. into the darkness, retrieves him, but doesn’t lay a hard hand on him. The restraint exercised is striking given the beating Daniel delivers to Eli Sunday earlier in the film, to say nothing of the deadly beating he delivers in the film’s final scene.