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Friday, March 10, 2017

First Movies of 2017 - Reflections on Pain

Pain and suffering is a common catalyst for propelling the plot of movies (or really most good stories) forward.  For many, it is central part of the plot and the driving force that defines the major characters.

I recently participated in an episode of the Reel World Theology podcast (episode 127, here).  One topic that came up in our discussion was John Wick's actions in relation and response to the deep pain his character suffered.

I realized that most of the movies I've seen most recently revolve around some deep tragedy that has befallen the characters in the story.  The stories themselves are about how the character reacts to and lives with the pain of tragedy.

At this point in the year, I've seen three excellent movies:  Split, John Wick Chapter 2, and Logan.  It struck me this week that in all three of these (plus the last movie I saw in 2016, Manchester by the Sea), the source of the main character's pain is the crux on which the movie turns.

In Split, while Casey and her friends are abducted seemingly at random, Casey's past traumas both haunt her and strengthen her through the ordeal.

In John Wick, John is still reeling from the loss of his wife, and John's pure anger and rage of the first movie evolves into resignation and determination that he cannot escape his past.

In Logan, years of suffering and depression take a toll on The Wolverine.  Though he cannot help but do the right thing (with prompting and help from friends), he cannot bring himself to feel anything near joy or contentment with a life lived well.  The loss he lives with, along with the flaws, mistakes, and sins of his past haunt his every moment.

Now, not every movie and story is told in this way.  Yes, real people and real characters face adversity from which to grow, and that tension makes a good story.  But not everyone is reeling from the loss of their loved ones or a deep betrayal.

So why are these themes coming up in the movies I watch?  Is it just random luck?  Or is it a new trend in Hollywood?

I'd love to hear your thoughts.