Life was meant to be lived, and curiosity must be kept alive. One must never, for whatever reason, turn his back on life. — Hyman G Rickover
I was far from curious to see The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Checking the screening schedules, it was apparent the film ran a lengthy 166 minutes. I was initially unwilling to spend more than two hours of my life on the movie. Checking the trailer, one got the idea that the film was about someone who was born looking like an old man and who grew younger as time progressed – a curious case indeed. Consequently, the story held no mystery for me. What remained to be seen were the unfolding of events revolving around this curious character, Benjamin Button. Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, the film’s leads held no particular attraction for me. I even mistakenly referred to the film as The Curious Case of Benjamin Bratt.
After seeing it, I immediately regretted not having done so sooner. Seeing this film created the desire for me to want to see it again – another curious case. I can’t remember any other film having this effect on me. Having seen a film once used to satisfy me, with perhaps an expectation of maybe viewing it someday on cable or dvd. This is one of the best films I have seen in a long time. When I found out the director David Fincher also directed Seven and Zodiac, he grabbed a spot on my list of favorite directors.
For a couple of weeks now, I’ve been attempting to write a review but was left at a loss for words. I wanted my piece to give justice to the film.
This film taught me lessons I needed to learn at this particular time, primarily, on love and acceptance. Loving someone meant accepting the person, no holds barred. His adoptive mother, Queenie (played by Taraji Henson) accepted and loved Benjamin when no one else could or would. Benjamin’s one true love, Daisy (played by Cate Blanchett), accepted him from the first time she knew him. There are various other characters who enjoyed all-encompassing acceptance, seemingly unloveable they may have been, such as the small black man who befriended Benjamin when he was an old man living in the retirement home and Captain Mike.
Despite his circumstances, being abandoned at birth and rejected by his father, the repulsiveness of his appearance to most people, the utter oddity of his condition, Benjamin can be considered one of the luckiest people to be able to receive such acceptance and love.
It gives hope that even if there are people who abandon or reject their children, there will be other God-sent people who can or will give the abandoned and rejected person unconditional acceptance and love. If such an unusual character as Benjamin experienced it, then more so a beautiful and loveable person.
What resonated the most with me was the lesson on letting go. Benjamin spoke lines that I wanted to burn in my memory the moment I heard them:
“We’re meant to lose the people we love. How else are we supposed to know how important they are?”
“Your life is defined by its opportunities… even the ones you miss.”
“You can be as mad as a mad dog at the way things went, you can curse the fates, but when it comes to the end, you have to let go.”
The letter to his daughter:
“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.”
Benjamin Button: I was thinking how nothing lasts, and what a shame that is.
Daisy: Some things last.
I was reminded to let go of painful experiences I’ve had in life, from the distant past or of late. There is also the lesson on forgiveness. It didn’t take long for Benjamin to forgive his father for abandoning him. He was able to let go of resentments that would have sullied his life had he held on to them. Like one of the principles of feng shui, to make room for beauty and happiness in life, one has to let go of one’s baggage – the ugliness, sadness, hurts, insecurities that are stored and occupying space that would be better filled with peace and joy.
There is a lesson too about making sacrifices for love. It was painful and terribly sad that Benjamin had to leave the people he loved the most – his lifelong love Daisy and their daughter Caroline. It was not for lack of love but of the unselfish desire to avoid being a burden to them. He wanted his daughter to have a father who would be best for her, not someone who could give her issues about the age difference in her parents that would be more pronounced as her mother ages & her father becomes younger. He could not be an effective parent when he would appear the same ages as his daughter and eventually look younger than her. Just thinking how great a sacrifice he made, the strength he had to be able to do it was heartrending.
Does it have a sad ending? For me it’s not a sad ending. All things have to be resolved in their own way. The way the story ended is the way it was meant to end. It is the ultimate in love when one gets to spend the last days of life with the person he/she loves, especially taking care of the loved one until his dying breath. The scene where Daisy cradled Benjamin in her arms as a baby when he breathed his last was very poignant.
I can only hope those lessons stay with me. If not, I plan to see the movie again just to remind me of the beauty of love, acceptance, forgiveness and letting go.