Thursday, June 30, 2011

The BEAVER

This is the story about a man and his struggle with depression. It is also about his family’s struggle with the effects of the illness which alienates him from work, from his wife and children, from himself and just about everything else in life.

What’s powerful about this story is that the wife deals with her lot in life with her eyes wide open – an ineffective husband, a preteen son victimized by school bullies and thrown into the dumpster, and a teenaged son who copes with banging his head against a hole in the wall, thinly camouflaged by a world map. She deals with her realities with the sanity at hand for the moment. She doesn’t have the compulsive need to resolve all her problems to get on with life, nor to prescribe to others the proper expressions for anger and frustrations, even when their personal problems become fodder for the headlines. She knows intrinsically what human limits are, and that it’s okay to fall and fail to keep up.

In the midst of the hullabaloo, they take a family portrait … picture perfect.

Herein lies what family portraits often conceal: shadows lurking behind the faces of hope. Everyone learns to keep their struggles private and separate from each other to keep up the fa├žade of togetherness. In the end, no one is really connected to each other, and insidiously, even as more photos are taken, the rift widens.

Sadly, all the modernity and affluence of society does not do much to improve the human ability to deal with his fears and failings. Dysfunctions are re-labelled with medical-sounding terms such as “something-maniac”, while those with unhealthy coping behaviours to struggles common to man, find identification with groups that declare “we are born this way”. Even benevolence is a good cover-up where the compulsive desire to help others with their problems – even in the name of charity – gives a mastery and control over other people’s lives that are missing in one’s own.

I care little for what gutter journalism says about Mel Gibson, but when Jodie Foster and him collaborate, it is a movie I want to catch. This movie is dark, deep and because it’s also realistic, the proverbial light came at the end of the tunnel.

Monday, June 27, 2011

THE NOTEBOOK

My face was openly drenched with tears watching 'The Notebook' on Sunday night. It is a compelling story of a husband's enduring love for his wife whom he is losing to Alzheimer's Disease - a cruel illness that progressively erases the memories of those who suffer it, degenerates their cognitive and physical functions and emotional capacities leading to severe disorientation and disconnect with self and others. Alzheimer is a nefarious disease that inflicts suffering on not only its patients, but also their loved ones. 

Yet, Noah, the husband [played by James Garner] persevered. Everyday, he would pop in to visit his wife, Allie, [played by Gena Rowlands] and introduce himself to her as though they were meeting for the first time. And he would read to her  from a book she had written about their lives together before she slipped away, in the hope that she would remember him for even just 5 or 10 minutes. And he would have her back during those precious brief episodes of lucidity.

It was not like Noah was romanticizing his role as the husband caring for a disabled wife. He had always planted surprises throughout their romance and leaving her alone in the nursing home would be the most unnatural and unthinkable thing to do.

Thinking out loud: is being demented a great way for one to forget a painful past? But not knowing yourself, the people and places around you produces constant stress! Perhaps there really is no such thing as the bliss of oblivion for those suffering dementia.  

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

AFRICA United

World Cup 2010 may have passed, but the tale of a group of friends made in the trenches of life sharing a common dream is as timeless as Robin Hood. There's Dudu, a stodgy street kid who operates as 'Manager'; his little sister, Beatrice, who dreams of being 'a doctor who finds cures for illnesses'; Fabrice, an upper-class soccer talent/prodigy; George, a youth with a dark past whom they meet at a refugee camp where able-bodied youth are abducted in the night by the militants; and finally, a teenaged sex worker, Celeste

The entirely non-Hollywood cast speak with African accents that give the movie a more documentary rather than a drama feel, while the use of animated graphics to illustrate Dudu's fairy tale rendition of their expedition from the north of Africa to Johannesburg in the south gives it the feel of a folklore. The total effect is a childlike journey towards a dream that is unadulterated with over-caution, self-doubt, and the fear of the unknown.

Aren't believers also told to hold onto our dream - working towards the return of Christ? Hebrews 10:24-25 reminds us: 'And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.'

To the African youths, the World Cup was 'the Day'; everyday moves in linear progression towards that day in terms of their choices and decisions made. Why then do those who profess their faith as Christians, not live out their lives as though 'the Day' matters? 

Do we live our lives as a continual memorial of our yesterdays or as a legacy towards 'the Day approaching'? 

This movie restores in me the power of childlike belief in dreams, and reminds me of the goodness of having friends around who share with me the joy of seeing my dreams come true - knowing that the journey will involve travelling through rough terrain, and often wrought with tearless pain and countless challenges.