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It Is To Weep

I finally saw Bridge to Terabithiathis weekend (at my wife’s continued insistence that I take her), and I was mostly impressed, although I’m still not sure exactly how much I enjoyed myself. Peter Chattaway covered in detail the shamelessly inaccurate and exploitative marketing campaign around the release, but assured his readers that the actual movie was not, in fact, a Narnia knock-off.

I think I read Bridge to Terabithia when I was in 8th grade, probably all in one sitting. It was a good book, but failed to make a huge impression on me. I couldn’t really relate, although I did feel a bit of its impact . . . But mostly I think I was just expecting something very different. I had heard that the book was frequently challenged, and even banned, and I kept waiting for something shocking that never came. I couldn’t figure out what people were objecting to.

From what I remember, this is a largely faithful adaptation, both in style and in substance. As a movie, I felt a bit like I was watching a shaky tight-rope walker. Too far to one side and the whole thing would be childishly saccharine, in keeping with the bulk of its genre’s family-friendly fare. Too far to the other and it ran the risk of needless self-indulgence in digital effects.

There were several moments when I felt the whole thing teetering a bit to one side or the other. The movie was at its weakest when it is waxing fantastical. Somehow it seems less magical the more it shovels on the pixie dust. but the overall effect was mature and meaningful. This is a well-executed movie with a few forgivable flaws. I’d probably watch it again.

Then, yesterday afternoon, I finally got around to watching In the Bedroom, which I’ve been meaning to catch since I was enthralled by last year’s Little Children. As it happens, In the Bedroom is also a movie about loss and grieving, but at the opposite end of the age spectrum from Bridge to Terabithia. This is a quiet, thoughtful movie with a double handful of very fine performances.

I must note, however, that while I can appreciate very much a movie that takes its time, the pacing here is positively glacial. I was shocked when I checked the time halfway through and discovered that there was still an hour and change to go. I wasn’t bored per se, but I’d have difficulty sitting through it a second time.

Additionally, I felt the film took a strange turn towards the end which didn’t really seem to follow (although I was delighted that something was going on). It was very similar to an incomprehensible action taken by a character at the end of Little Children, but on a larger and more sustained scale. Until that point, In the Bedroom had me thinking of Ordinary People (which I think is the better film, in the end). After that I’m not sure what I had in mind, but it was a different sort of movie entirely.

I was reminded that Soul Food Movies compiled a list of “Movies About Grief” a few weeks ago. In the Bedroom and Ordinary People are both on there, but Bridge to Terabithia somehow slipped through the cracks. Actually, I’m sure quite a few are missing, but they covered everything else I could think of.

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~ by Jared on June 11, 2007.

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