My husband and I have a fun tradition. For the past 13 years, we have always made a date to go to the movies and see the latest Pix.ar film together. It all started with our first date in January of 1996, where the first movie we ever saw together was Pix.ar's very first film, Toy Story. (You can read more about our first date HERE.) Ten great films later, we still look forward to seeing their latest creation, and we get excited when we start seeing previews for what will become, for us at least, a new animated classic.
A couple of days ago, we set out to see the latest release, UP. It was a great evening for us to go to the movies. We had spent the whole weekend clearing everything out of our living room to have the floor replaced. We needed a break. We like to go to the theater on weeknights to try to avoid the crowds, and we know that soon summer will be in full swing with schools out and more people flocking to the theater. So, we got settled in with our tub o' popcorn, large soft drink to share, and napkins for our buttery fingers. Perfect.
After the previews, it was time for the always-anticipated short film that precedes the movie. I couldn't help but feel slightly disappointed that it featured, of all things, storks. Yes, the baby-delivering kind. That's okay. After all, it's not called a "short" film for nothing. It was over pretty quickly, and didn't focus much on the overjoyed faces of new parents with their swaddled surprises. Just a minor setback. Chuck and I exchanged glances and I mouthed the word "Seriously?" and the movie began.
Going into it, here's what I thought UP was about, based on previews I'd seen: A crotchety old man who used to live in a peaceful neighborhood is now not pleased about the urban development around his home. He doesn't want to sell the house and he doesn't want to be bothered, not even by the cute kid who knocks on his door seeking to earn a badge for assisting the elderly. The old man hatches a plan to get away from it all by tying thousands of balloons to his house and lifting himself and all of his beloved possessions up and away. He discovers that he is accompanied by the aforementioned kid, they have adventures, the kid softens the old man, end of story.
And that is pretty much what it is about. But, I was missing some details that, to some, may seem minor. You see, the old man is not just crotchety. He is grieving. In the early scenes of the film, we see him as a boy who dreams of adventure. Young Carl meets young Ellie, they grow up, fall in love, and get married. Soon they begin dreaming of bringing home a bundle of joy.
These scenes of the movie pass by quickly, like pieces of the old man's memory. Suddenly the scene shifts from the young couple on a sunny day, imagining images of babies in the clouds, to a heartbreaking scene of Carl and Ellie in a cold hospital, receiving devastating news. We don't hear the news, but we don't need to. They'll never have a child. Their baby dreams are over.
But Ellie has another dream. She dreams of exploring the wilds of South America and taking in the view of Paradise Falls with her own eyes, a goal made when she was a little girl. She wants to fill up their adventure book (a scrapbook whose pages will hold their most precious memories).
We can all relate to this, but life passes by so quickly and those dreams get pushed aside while we live (even happily) from day to day. Ellie and Carl are a happy couple, even though life hasn't always been easy. Carl finally realizes that it is time to make his wife's dream of adventure come true, and he buys the tickets even though they are much older now. It's not too late! Then, sadly, Ellie's health declines. The movie has just started, and just when I think I can't feel any more devastated, Carl is alone. It's my biggest fear. Not that I'll never get to see places I dream of seeing, of course, but that I'll end up all alone in the world someday without my dear husband, and with no children or grandchildren.
Sheesh. All this from a cartoon? I wasn't exactly expecting it either. I didn't hate the movie at all. I loved it. It was sad but it was also cute, sweet, and funny. But even after the story unfolded and Carl changed his life for the better, overcoming his grief and solitude, I still had to deal with my old familiar fear and hurt coming back to the surface. I watched the entire movie with a huge knot in my stomach and tears rolling down my cheeks. Afterward, my sister sent me a message to ask how the movie was and I could only respond, "SAD." She had been planning to take her boys to see it the next day. When I called her after they were done seeing it, I caught her still pulling herself together in her car.
I doubt that everyone will have this same reaction to this movie. I'm not telling you not to go see it! Heck, I'll even buy the DVD when it comes out, even though my husband joked that they should have named the movie "Down." Most people, I'm sure, will find it heartwarming and will also feel sad for Carl because he lost his wife, especially just short of making her big dream a reality.
But wait! I haven't gotten to the best part yet. The best part of the movie for me was when the old man picks up his wife's old adventure scrapbook and looks at it for what must have been the hundredth time. He never could bear to look at the empty pages and be reminded of the things they never did, the dreams never fulfilled. But this time he sees something new. Ellie had filled the pages. They weren't blank after all. He could see that their adventure was simply their life together, even the simple, everyday things.
I got a lot more than I bargained for by going to see this movie. In the end, though, I don't regret it. Turns out I needed a reminder that my life with Chuck is already my adventure. Even though I don't know the ending, I'm just glad we're both along for the ride.