I think that I probably cry more than the average guy. Or at least more than society assumes that guys cry. In fact, I find I cry pretty regularly in movies, and not always at the saddest bits. Sometimes it’s when something happens that has to do with fathers & children. And often it’s as I’m simultaneously criticizing the film for its emotionally manipulative storytelling.
And while it’s rare that I’m genuinely embarrassed about crying in a movie, it does make me feel a bit uncomfortable. I guess I think it will look weird to my friends or my kids or whomever.
(Incidentally, this is #46 in a series of 47 posts about movies, with topics selected by my friend, each given to me after the previous one is written. For more information, check out #1 here.)
When I was asked to write about this topic, I found it hard to think of specific examples. I know there are more movies that have made me cry than I’m remembering here, and since I can only come up with a few examples, I’ll pretty much share all of them, in roughly the order that I encountered them.
The Fox and the Hound (1981 – directed by Ted Berman, Richard Rich & Art Stevens)
Summary: Disney animated film about the unlikely friendship between a fox and a hound dog
The Moment: Widow Tweed is forced to abandon Tod the Fox on a game preserve after realizing he is no longer safe
Hankie Count: 6 / 7 (it was pretty bad)
Embarrassment Factor: 1 Shade of Red (at the time); 4 Shades of Red (now)
I saw The Fox and the Hound in the cinemas years after it’s initial release, in 1988. I was on a date with my sort-of-girlfriend at the time (it was both complicated, and stupid), and facing the looming reality that we were about to graduate high school and go our separate ways. I guess all the vulnerability associated with that was enough to push me over a bit of a ledge when this particularly sad bit occurred in the middle of the movie.
I can still see him now, poor little Tod, not understanding what was happening, being left behind by the woman who had raised him, wanting to go back with her, but instead being forced to face the cold harsh reality of the forest…sniff, excuse me…
Anyway, at the time I wasn’t embarrassed, but now, nearly 30 years later, it all seems a bit ridiculous.
SpaceCamp (1986 – directed by Harry Winer)
Summary: Light-hearted adventure fare about young space enthusiasts who are accidentally launched into orbit on a shuttle and must work together and reach their personal potential to get back home.
The Moment: I genuinely don’t remember. Maybe it some bit where one of the characters come into their own in the midst of adversity?
Hankie Count: 3 / 7
Embarrassment Factor: 5 Shade of Red (just because it all seems so random)
There’s not much more to tell. SpaceCamp is not a great movie by any standards, although it was at least diverting. I might have been home from college when I rented it and watched it, and perhaps was wondering when I too, like the characters, would come to discover my own sense of purpose and significance. Maybe if I watched it again, I’d remember. But it all seems so fluffy, and not even that emotionally manipulative, that I’m probably more confused than genuinely embarrassed.
Patriot Games (1992 – directed by Phillip Noyce)
Summary: CIA analyst Jack Ryan attempts to thwart a terrorist act and to survive the personal vendetta of one terrorist against him and his family.
The Moment: Terrorist Sean Miller causes Jack Ryan’s wife and daughter to have a car accident
Hankie Count: 1 / 7
Embarrassment Factor: 0 Shades of Red
A few months before watching Patriot Games, my friend and I were in a car accident. I was a passenger and we crashed into the side of a police car that suddenly swerved into our path. It was pretty serious, although no one was majorly injured. But it was a scary experience, of course, and I can specifically remember the feeling of seeing the police approaching us (or more literally, of approaching the police car) but not having time to say anything before we smashed into its side. Anyway, in Patriot Games, which I saw with the same friend, there’s a bit where terrorists are trying to kill Anne Archer’s Cathy Ryan and her daughter by shooting them from a moving car while they are driving. Cathy attempts to escape but ends up crashing into a median on the highway. The sequence was shot similarly to how I remember my own accident: there’s a brief instant where you see that you are about to crash into something, but there’s no time to react or even speak before the impact. When it happened, my whole body “snapped”–all my muscles went tight, my eyes clenched shut and tears sort of flew out of me, all in an instant.
It took me a minute or two, and I was okay. So this is quite a different sort of experience to what we’re usually talking about with crying in movies, and I wasn’t embarrassed at all, but I thought I’d mention it.
The Passion of the Christ (2004 – directed by Mel Gibson)
Summary: An intense and graphic look at the last day or so of Jesus’ life
The Moment: Pretty much the entire movie
Hankie Count: 7 / 7
Embarrassment Factor: 1 Shade of Red
I’m a Christian and viewed much of The Passion of the Christ from a highly personal and religious perspective. It was an intense and draining experience to watch the movie, and I found myself in tears and weeping over the visceral depiction of Jesus’ suffering leading up to and during his crucifixion. I don’t feel embarrassed about it, rather I am deeply moved and touched to think about the reality that was behind this re-creation. In that sense, it’s similar to what I described here. But maybe it would have been a little awkward if I’d been with others at the time (I was pretty much alone), depending on who they were.
The Notebook (2004 – directed by Nick Cassavetes)
Summary: A romance story being told by an old man to a woman with dementia turns out to be the story of their own life, which is repeated as a way to help the woman remain connected to reality.
The Moment: A fair bit of it, but especially I think when the elderly Allie forgets again who Noah is and the story of their life
Hankie Count: 4 / 7
Embarrassment Factor: 3 Shades of Red
Actually, my embarrassment here is more to do with the fact that I watched The Notebook and liked it a fair bit, more than that I cried during it. As I mentioned elsewhere, it’s possibly the ultimate “chick flick”, and as such opens itself up to a bit of mockery. But it’s still an engaging story with good performances and of course a heartbreaking look at the impact of dementia upon pretty much everything in life.
Orange (2015 – directed by Kôjirô Hashimoto)
Summary: A teenaged girl receives letters from herself in the future, warning her that a new friend will commit suicide at the end of the year
The Moment: The ending, when the actions of Nahu and her friends leads Kakeru to realize in his darkest moments that he has more reasons to live than not to.
Hankie Count: 4 / 7
Embarrassment Factor: 2 Shades of Red
I was on the plane when I saw this movie, and found myself drawn into its teen-focused fantasy story. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, it’s pretty adolescent in many ways, but also has got veins of surprising maturity in its handing of its subject matter. Even though everything is told from a high-school perspective, Kakeru’s pain is not treated with the cartoonish simplicity I was expecting. The ending has everyone crouched around an injured Kakeru, weeping and affirming their love for each other and weeping some more. And I found myself weeping as well. More than that, I found myself even tearing up when I was telling the story to my kids later. That was really more embarrassing than when I was watching the movie.
As I said, there’s probably a lot more movies that I cried in. Up, most likely. And The Railway Man. Les Miserables. Maybe Babe. Remains of the Day? Shadowlands? Dumb and Dumber? I just can’t remember for sure.
Anyway, that’s it. Only one more of these posts to go! What will it be about?