Brave or On Losing My Mother
[Editor’s Note: Why wait until Dark Knight Rises to make your editor look like a fool? Hell, we figure our idiot writer will finally have those Steven Seagal movie reviews finished by Christmas if we’re fucking lucky! Anyway, here is the review for Brave]
At the age of 16 I lost my mother to a combination of cancer and stroke. One was brought on by the other. I was away at boarding school when this event occurred. My mother had fallen ill just after Christmas break, in fact she first started feeling ill the day I left home to go back to school in January of 1988. The next 4 months were agonizing for me. I didn’t find out until after my birthday, that February, that my mother was actually even ill. It was information that my father had kept from me because he didn’t want anything to interfere with my schoolwork. Going home every few weekends to watch my mother in pain and waste away from cancer was far and away the most painful thing I ever had to experience up to that point in my life. The day she died wasn’t nearly as awful because the day before I returned to school after my Spring break, my father pulled me aside and told me rather bluntly “Spend as much time with mom between now and when I take you back, because in all honesty it is more than likely the last time you will have to spend with her” (1). The day that hurt more was my mother’s funeral. I was so shaken that day for a variety of reasons. One of those reasons was I never got to really say good-bye to her and tell her how much I loved her. It sounds so cliché to say that about a loved one but that regret is genuine and so very tangible. I’m 40 years old now and what scares me is that since the age of 20 I can barely remember my mother’s face. I have no idea if it is some kind of mental block or anything of the sort. I am actually very good with faces, it is names that that slip my mind but my mother’s face is continually hazy to me when I try to remember her. I don’t even have a picture of her in my possession. There is so much that still hurts when thinking about the loss of my mother that I honestly cannot begin to list them all.
I had the pleasure of seeing PIXAR’s Brave the other day. It was a marvelous movie that was full of action, adventure, humor and fun. It was also a movie I was not expecting to move me the way it did. Previously on this blog I wrote 3 separate movie reviews under the heading of “3 Movies That Have Made Me Cry”. I need to amend this list now because Brave moved me so, that by the time it was over I found tears rolling down my face. I have had twenty-four hours to mull over what I experienced when I saw Brave and why it moved me in such a manner. I mean this isn’t the most daring and original movie PIXAR has made (2). It isn’t even necessarily the best movie they’ve made on a technical (3) or emotional level (4) but for some reason Brave really resonated with me. The tears I cried at the end of Brave were not tears of me sobbing uncontrollably or any sort of histrionics mind you. These were tears of a movie having touched me by stirring thoughts of my mother. The tears did not well-up in the corner of my eyes, they just flowed freely and streamed down my face.
Brave is not a complex story. It is very straightforward but not to the point where I felt that I was being beaten over the head with the obviousness of what the themes were trying to convey. The story tells the tale of Merida, a willful Scottish princess, who is at odds with her mother Queen Elinor over Merida’s right to choose her own path in life as opposed to having marriage forced upon her due to her station in life. All Merida wants to do is shoot her bow in the woods and ride her horse Angus. All Elinor wants is for her daughter to to act in a manner a princess should . In the middle of all this is King Fergus, who is the one person that seems to understand both sides of the conflict and honestly believes that if Merida and her mother would sit down and listen to what the other is saying, peace will reign at home. Of course Merida, being young and impulsive, takes drastic measures to try and change her fate and get her mother to listen to what she wants for her life. Needless to say, usually when young impulsive teenagers do this, be it in fiction or life, the results are never what they want.
The main theme of the movie is Mother/Daughter relationships, which one can easily make a case for being about all parent/child relationships. By the end of it all Merida and Elinor come to an understanding of one another. That understanding affected me in such a way that all I could think about was my mother and the things left unsaid between us. I know my mother knew that I loved her. It doesn’t mean that I felt that maybe I should have said it more often than I did. I can only remember snippets of things about my mother, little things about her that make me smile but I want more than that. There was much psychological damage done between my father and I after my mother’s death. We inflicted many wounds upon each other, many that left scars that linger to this day. I don’t know how my mother would feel about what our relationship became. I think my biggest fear is that there is the possibility that my mother never really understood me, or at least died before she had the opportunity to. It is things like this that made me connect with Brave as a movie. In the end Merida and Elinor are able to understand each other and remember that they love each other in that way only a mother and daughter can.
Brave is really a movie about all familial bonds. It is about the damage and pain those bonds go through and about the lengths those damaged and oft times broken bonds need to go through in order to be repaired and be stronger than they had been. It is a lush and gorgeous movie to behold, full of dark green trees, bright red heads of hair and amazingly blue skies. Its characters are simultaneously comedic yet almost fully conceptualized. It has the most spirited Princess that Disney has let come to the screen and actually makes it so more than just little girls can identify with her. But what Brave really has, is a depth of emotion and feeling that touched me and made me miss my mother and really want to reconnect with her in any small way I possibly can. It is, so far, the BEST movie of the summer (5). I’m in such awe of this movie, despite it not being PIXAR’s best, that it is dangerously close to entering that fabled hall of being part of my All Time Top 10 Movies (6). Lastly, it is a movie that is open ended enough for a sequel and if that happened I’d be right in the front of the line at the theater waiting to see it.
(1) My father has never been one to dance around a subject delicately when bluntness is required. He knew the outlook for my mother was bleak and realized that coddling/lying to me would do more harm than good in the long run.
(2) That distinction still goes to WALL-E
(3) Again, WALL-E
(4) Come on, Toy Story 3 was such an ode to the joys of childhood and the pain of growing out of it that if you didn’t feel some sort of longing to play with your favorite toys then I sense you might be some sort of inhuman monster.
(5) I get the feeling this will not be the last time I say that in the summer of 2012
(6) I’ll have to see how it holds up to repeated viewings. If the tears flow as freely upon second viewing as they did the first it could even be in my All Time Top 5!