A new movie burst into my top five tonight. I’m not sure which one it knocked out, so maybe my top five has six, but that’s not the point.
I spent the last six hours or so working via a virtual private network (I love being able to do that). Luckily the work is mindless enough that I can watch movies and other things to keep myself entertained as I work. I had watched several episodes of M*A*S*H, but I felt need for a more in-depth, cohesive storyline, not something that changes every 25 minutes. So I plopped myself in front of my parent’s DVD cabinet (hence the need for the VPN–working for a Utah-based company while in California can get pretty tricky) and searched for something new to watch.
I chose Charly a movie written by an LDS physics professor that I heard was “sappy” and “a total chick flick.” Never having been too put off by such things (although most chick flicks are trash), I decided to watch it.
It is a definite tear-jerker and would have elicited more from me if I had not been partially focused on my work. I’m kinda glad I didn’t see it for the first time with a girl because I may have lost all semblance of manliness in her eyes if I had. However, experience shows I may not be much better the second time around.
To move to my actual thoughts: the story is not about the love Sam and Charly have for each other. Their love is the vehicle for the underlying message: when love is founded in true principles, it can be eternal. That is, “happily ever after” is not a fairy tale. It can be reality if both individuals want it and work at it.
Some sort-of spoilers follow, but knowing what happens won’t change the powerful emotional effect the movie has one you.
Movies that elicit powerful emotions quickly jump to be among my favourites. The last forty minutes (as I saw it–your experience may differ) is about a man who loves his family so much he will do anything, include acting contrary to God’s will (a belief he holds very strongly) to try to ensure that family can live together. Sam takes every step he can think to hold onto Charly and Adam for as long as he can. But Charly’s illness proves to be terminal.
Sam is a powerful example to men of how strongly they ought to love their wives. Together he and Charly teach the viewer how a couple must foster a relationship so it can last longer than “as long as you both shall live.” Part of this is belief in correct principles, part of it is the continuation of courtship beyond marriage.
One symbol pervades the story: a ferris wheel. When Sam meets Charly, they ride the ferris wheel for hours, mostly annoyed with the other (you gotta watch it to understand why they would torture themselves like that). Here the wheel symbolizes the futility of their conversation and even their relationship to that point. It symbolizes a happy-go-lucky girl stuck in a constant state of college party and a too-old man (only within a certain culture 😉 ) constantly stuck in his boring ways.
The first time they return to the ferris wheel (maybe the second?–I was working) they actually are engaged and each has progress toward the other. Now the ferris wheel symbolizes potential. They dream of creating a relationship that will last forever, a relationship that death cannot terminate.
Later they again return to the ferris wheel (the practical person in me wonders how it is still there, given the transient nature of most ferris wheels) and it symbolizes their immediate hope for an eternal relationship together. It is their last time to ride the wheel together. But it symbolizes eternity–the ride has no end. There is no beginning or end to a circle–there cannot be. Thus the ferris wheel symbolizes their hope and faith in an eternal relationship–what they worked so hard to create and what they look forward to when they are reunited after their deaths.
After Charly is buried, Sam takes Adam for a ride on the ferris wheel. The story begins again, but in a slightly different place. This last visit moves the circular story into three dimensions and we realize what was a circle in two dimensions is a helix in three. Throughout the story Sam and Charly have been circling on this ferris wheel, but each time they come back to it, they are on a higher plane–they are closer to both God and each other. This last time introduces Adam to the ferris wheel and begins his symbolic journey to mimic what he parents created.
Thus the author actually uses the relationship of Sam and Charly to teach the principle of eternal marriage. And hey preys on people’s emotions to make the story hit home. Realizing how similar I am to the characters and how similar my life could be draws me into the story and makes their emotional roller coaster one I must experience, and one I should prepare for. I pray I never have to leave a young wife, and I pray I am never left by my wife when I am young, but I know I can overcome the trial with faith in God, with faith in His teachings and His gospel. No matter how many nights I end up crying myself to sleep if that happened to me, I know that pain will be replaced with joy, because I will be married for eternity.
What is perhaps my favourite line of the movie came after the credits ended, and summarizes my belief of life on earth and whether this is the totality of existence. I cite it verbatim:
Not The End