Random thoughts from an animal-loving French prof / mom of three on things she finds beautiful, funny, sad, or strange.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

When so-so movies generate big ideas...

Winter is here. It gets too cold and too dark too early, so I find myself watching a lot of films. Because I am old-fashioned and still watch most movies in theaters or on DVD, I happen to think Redbox is one of the best things ever.

(I know, I know... Who would've said even five years ago that DVDs were old-fashioned?! But that's a topic for another day.)

A couple of weeks ago, a few screen touches and a card swipe at our local kiosk produced Black or White, a family-focused drama with Olivia Spencer and Kevin Costner. I like both actors very much, and the little I knew about the story, namely that it featured a multi-racial family, caught my attention. And with a promo code that gave me movie for free, what did I have to lose? Not much.

Unfortunately, I can't say I gained much either, not as movies go. Overall, I thought it was okay, or, to paraphrase a sister book-club member, "it was a movie I saw," nothing more, nothing less. It certainly didn't meet my expectations, although it did have good moments. In other words, it's the kind of movie one usually forgets.

Note the "usually." There was (is) a scene that just would (will) not leave me alone. Most of the film tries valiantly to explore the complexities of race, class, grief, and substance abuse as they are lived by ordinary people in their everyday lives. It is thought-provoking, if not especially well executed. Then, suddenly, the messy mundanity of existence is interrupted by a violent, near-fatal knife attack. The scene is both unexpected and pivotal. It changes the outcome of the film in ways the viewer (at least this viewer) could not have easily anticipated.

For me, at first, this marred the film. The knife scene felt out of place, as though it belonged in a different movie. Then it hit me: for most of us, daily life may be made up of a series of seemingly small decisions, where melodrama never strikes. Yet no one is immune from those split-second crises when everything changes. I am not just thinking of people working in the Twin Towers, the concert goers at the Bataclan, the shoppers on a busy Beirut street, the guests at a Bamako hotel...  I am thinking of people like you and me. We aren't as far removed as we might like to think. I too have faced close-to-home acts of violence that don't fit neatly into the bookish, small-town life I've endeavored to build. Yet as much as they pain me, they teach me too. Thanks to them, I too have found certain beliefs irrevocably changed and made decisions that previously seemed unfathomable, decisions that meant seeking justice not in a court of law, but in the nurturing of hearts and minds.

I don't know what the moral of the story is. Maybe there isn't one. Or maybe it's simply this: our lives are made up of many parts, and we're meant to embrace them all...even those that don't "fit."

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