Normally in this column I recommend an outstanding book for families. And there are commendable books in the queue. But sometimes a non-book resource commands special attention. This time I recommend an extraordinary movie.
A Notable Movie
Some movies are hard to describe because of an odd combination of elements. Millions has the sweet and tender heart of an excellent children’s movie. Yet it has the drama and sometimes-hard editing of a movie targeted at adults. Somehow the drama makes the sweetness all the sweeter.
Two brothers move with their dad to a new neighborhood after their mother has died. The younger brother, Damian, builds a cardboard-box enclave by the railroad tracks. There as in other places, he occasionally entertains saints – Saint Francis of Assisi, St. Peter, and others. The saints just show up and visit with him almost like a helpful neighbor or a sensitive home teacher.
Does their appearance seem odd? Does it seem that Damian is delusional? Not to this viewer. It seems entirely natural. In fact, it makes me wonder whether we all should be entertaining angels more often. Their appearance is not only natural but also entirely enchanting. Then, when a bag of money drops into Damian’s life, it seems that the windows of heaven have opened.
A Study in Contrasts
The movie brothers provide an instructive and meaningful contrast. The older brother, Anthony, is worldly. He wants to use the windfall money to buy a life of ease and power. He is the voice of the cynical natural man. Damian by contrast is nave and trusting. He wants to use the money for the poor. He trusts everyone and speaks a wisdom born of innocence.
As in life, the money in the movie is the root of evil. The movie moves towards the inevitable crisis. In the last encounter with a saint, Damian is told “Money makes it harder to see what’s what.” Yes. It gets in the way of seeing truly. In this encounter he is also given a gift of profound love and trust. Be prepared to savor the moment.
And the movie ends with the triumph of good. In fact, I encourage you to take a donation envelope to the movie and, just as it ends, write a check to the humanitarian fund, the perpetual education fund or some other cause as the Spirit directs.
Because of the tension in the movie, it will not be suitable for all children. Many should be able to watch it with a little preparation. “There is a bad guy in the movie but the boys are kept safe by their dad.”
As a side note, LDS missionaries show up quite prominently in the plot. They, like most of the characters, are treated sympathetically. As a boy who entertains saints, Damian shows special interest in Latter-day Saints.
While you may have to pay close attention because of the British accent, the language of sweetness in the movie has left a persistent smile on my soul. I recommend that you find a theatre in your community and watch it at least once.
Martin E. P. Seligman (2002). Authentic Happiness. New York: Free Press.