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Spoiler Alert. First, I am so thrilled you went to see the film by yourself. I often go myself if I want to see something badly enough. In the beginning of the film, the boy's incessant chatter bothered me until he packed his bag for his first adventure and mentioned the tambourine helped to keep him calm. That was when I realized he was a "special" boy and that explanation helped me to understand his character more fully, especially when you saw him take it everywhere he went. Then the development/realization on his part of his relationship with his mother was beautiful. I totally agree with all your insightful comments about the film including how favorite actors don't always fit into the mold we have put them in!