We took our daughters to the movies the other day. They’d been wanting to see Bridge to Terabithia ever since they saw the first commercial for it, months ago. Normally, when a movie is based on a book, I take the hard line and make them read the book first. But this little outing was a special treat, so I decided to be flexible (we’ll get the book from the library today).
I didn’t know what to expect from the movie. Would this be one of those “at-least-the-girls-liked-it” experiences (The Princess Diaries II, Brother Bear, Ice Age II)? Or one of the exceedingly rare “oh-my-gosh-that-was-incredible” experiences (Finding Neverland)? I am happy to report, it was the latter. Not to the same level as Finding Neverland (which is my favorite movie of all time). But it was a truly beautiful story. It had such sincerity and earnestness, I found myself crying in parts of the movie that were not sad, simply because I was overwhelmed (I am a notorious weeper, so you might not necessarily expect the same results when you see it). The boy and girl leads were–well, they were luminous. So much so, that it wasn’t until the credits started rolling that it occurred to me that there were actors behind those characters.
One of the most compelling elements of the movie, to me anyway, was the way the boy’s outlook–his entire life, really–was transformed just by knowing the girl.
First, she accepted him exactly as he was: moody, silent, mopey. She didn’t criticize him for not standing up to the bullies at school, or for looking at things in his distinctly negative way. She simply came alongside him, unapologetic for who she was, and he found himself captivated by her in spite of himself. There is one particular shot in the movie that will stay with me: she is running home in the rain, laughing and trying to shield her dog from the downpour with her coat. She leaves the boy at his front door, but instead of ducking inside, he just stands there, rain pouring down his face, and watches her go. He listens to her laughter and smiles at her twinkling eyes, and in a brilliant directing move, the only audio you hear above her laughing is his slow, satisfied exhale. Sort of like “wow.”
What girl wouldn’t want that kind of reaction from a boy? She didn’t have to push him or dress provocatively for him, or even go out of her way to flirt. Something about how comfortable she was with herself, and how accepting she was of him, and how defiantly positive she was about their difficult circumstances, all these things together lifted him out of his despair, giving him hope and courage and joy.
Maybe it’s silly to read all this into a kids’ movie. But that little girl made me want to be like her. I would love to quit trying to push and manipulate Pete, and just naturally make him happy. I would love it if I turned around one day, maybe in the rain, and saw him smiling after me, sighing out of sheer wonder and contentment and love.
Am I a complete dweeb or what?