A Love Letter to UP

With the Oscar's right around the corner, I thought it would be fun to post about my favorite movie of the year and current Best Picture Nominee, UP.  I actually began this post back in May 09' when I first saw the movie and just recently revisited and revised it.  Of course everything in this post is my opinion, but honestly if you didn't like UP you might be the Tin Man...heartless.

Rarely has a movie captured my heart and imagination so thoroughly that all day afterwards I have wanted to simply sit down and write about it.  And not to write a review, God knows there are hundreds of those to be found on the internet and elsewhere, but to write a love letter, to simply put on paper my outpouring of affection.  

Going into UP I didn’t quite know what to expect to be honest.  I hoped I would love it as much as I loved Wall-E, that it would be loads of fun and, knowing how so often Pixar films slyly wrap their fingers around your heartstrings, I hoped to be emotionally connected to it.  But even going in half-expecting UP to be as routinely wonderful as the previous 9 Pixar films couldn’t prepare me for the emotional depth, beautiful truth and real genuine love I encountered. I won’t rehash plotlines or story points here; rather I want to explore just what I connected with on such a deep level, why I even feel compelled to write this silly piece.

This is big stuff, monumental stuff that I am dealing with, and to be honest I don’t even know where to begin. For starters, I don’t think I have ever cried so hard in the first 10 minutes of a movie ever, but such is the power of Carl and Ellie's love in the opening montage.  The montage recounts a beautiful love-story made all the more powerful by its inevitable ending.

Watch it here if you've never seen or just want relive it's beauty. You might want to have some tissue nearby.

 Love, like all things, finishes at the grave.  What makes this death so different is the crystal clear devotion of Carl to his wife.  It is the true, faithful love so utterly clear between the two that held me spellbound.  In a world where love, especially married love, is so often viewed through the cynical lenses of a postmodern society where over half of marriages end in divorce, it is refreshing to see it treated so delicately, so wonderfully, so…lovingly, all the while not ignoring the hardship and pain that comes with it.  This love seeps through the rest of the film, into its characters, its fiber, its meaning.  The montage, purposefully placed at the beginning, is the fixed point around which the rest of the adventure revolves.  In a way Ellie is the main character of the movie, the house a manifestation of her memory and presence.  Even the score reminds us so, as it continually returns to “Carl and Ellie’s Theme”. 

While Ellie is the indistinct main character of the film, the main theme is crystal clear, the human need for relationship.  The movie constantly reminds us we are not meant to live lonely, isolated lives but to be in connection with others.  The progress of both Carl and Russell throughout the movie is a testament to the power of relationships. Carl is transformed from a grumpy, old man into a tender hearted sacrificial father figure to Russell.  It is his previous relationship with Ellie, specifically the scene where he finds her “Adventure” picture journal and remembers what a loving relationship was like, that jars him from his isolated defensive existence into a man who once again cares for and fights for someone outside of himself.  Russell on the other hand, is a child without a caring father who desperately wants to be loved. In the end, his budding relationship with Carl, formed throughout their adventure, provides the affirmation he was searching for as it blossoms into a beautiful loving friendship.

Am I looking too deeply into all of this?  Probably. After all, it is a movie and to a certain extent all movies mirror and caricature reality.  Yet UP seems to be unique mirror. One that has been pulled from the attic of broken relationships and fleeting love and dusted off to reveal the timeless beauty of what it reflects. The reflections remind us of the deep human needs and desires we all have while exaggerating the things we will do to fulfill those needs.

For example, tethering thousands of balloons to your house until it flies away.

But it does so refreshingly, lovingly and hopefully, rather than say a movie like The Hurt Locker, which does so brutally.  Nothing against The Hurt Locker, it was wonderful, but somehow the gentleness with which UP treats these huge, fundamental desires makes all the more poignant our own desires; and causes us to (hopefully) reflect upon our unending quest for fulfillment, relationship and love.  And of course, as a Christ follower, it makes me melt with gratitude that the ultimate provider of all love sought me out to be in relationship with HIm.
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