While I put off renting this movie because I had heard that it was “long” and “tedious” and “strange,” I finally gave into my curiousities about it and was glad that I did. While there is no denying that the movie is long, it is 160 minutes, I didn’t find its length to be a deterrent to my enjoyment of the movie.
The movie, as most people know, is about a man aging backwards. This sounded like a pretty far-fetched thing for a movie to be able to capture in any elegant way, but the director, David Fincher (also director of Fight Club, among other movies) does an excellent job of weaving this tale in a sort of fantastical, fairy tale sort of way, as to make it believably unbelievable, if that makes any sense. It feels as if it should start with “once upon a time” and you never feel as if you are being forced to believe something completely unrealistic, but rather are glad to be along for the ride for as long as the story lasts.
While I was hoping to be struck with some obvious metaphorical meaning, I’m not sure that happened. I’ll admit, prior to seeing the movie I had made guesses as to what I was supposed to learn from such a story; that if we approach life as we age with the same vigor that we do when we're young that we'll find more fulfillment. In the end though, I don’t know that I was really struck by one meaning or another. I found myself thinking about it for the hour before I went to bed and then again the next morning, which I like for a movie to prompt me to do. And, even though my husband seemed disinterested in watching the movie with me, he too got hooked, watched most of it with me, and was talking about it the next morning as well, which I also like.
The two “lessons” I gleaned from the movie:
1. It is a story about love on many different levels. Loving people despite their outward appearance like Benjamin’s black mother does when she finds him on her doorstep as an unsightly baby, childhood love that grows into adulthood and eventually becomes an intimate lifelong relationship, and love despite awkward and challenging circumstances, especially on Anna’s (Cate Blanchet) part when she, as an older lady cares for the confused teenager and then toddling child and finally an infant who had once been her lover. At times the movie does get strange, like when Benjamin as an old man loves Anna as a young girl and vice versa, but these “weird” attractions are unintentional consequences of a mystical story and need to be merely pushed aside to enjoy the story.
2. It is a story about having the energy and courage to start over when things don’t quite go as we think they should. Benjamin says at one point that he hopes his daughter will have the courage to start over…it is a line that was ripe with meaning to an audience who likely has something in common—that we often find ourselves in ruts and stay there because it’s easier to stay with what you know than to start over sometimes- the movie encourages us to go against the grain under such circumstances.
In closing, I can’t say I would watch the movie again, because it is quite long, but I’m glad I saw it once—it was a worthwhile story and better than many of my other rental choices on a cold winter evening!
NOTE** Here is a link to one of my favorite movie databases; the International Movie Database. When I'm looking for reviews, summaries or information I've found this to be a GREAT web site. Also, I'm not one that likes violence, etc. and if you click on the "parents guide" it gives you a VERY detailed summary of what you're getting into with any given movie.