DISCLAIMER: This is not a series dedicated to proving men shouldn’t cry, or to suggest ONLY women cry and are therefore inferior. The goal of this series is to dispel the pre-established (yet flawed) notion that being “manly” and being disconnected from your emotions go hand-in-hand. Even the most macho of men enjoy and even shed a tear at films, and the sooner we can admit that the sooner the concept that one sex is better than the other can go away. While the approach to these articles is one of light-hearted comedy, the emotional core is valid. While men might be more hesitant to admit it, movies often times have the potential to make us cry, for example:
“Saying Goodbye in the Movies”
After years of working for the Escapist, Firefilm’s time is at an end. There are no hard feelings and I’m sure we’ll have a web presence in some form or another, but for the time being our relationship with this fine website is at an end. As emotional is this is, from No Right Answer to Guy Cry Cinema, we look forward to new opportunities and adventure. And movies are no strangers to the emotional gut punch that is saying goodbye to characters you’ve just bonded with over the course of the runtime. A good cinematic story is scientifically designed to create emotional bonds between the viewer and the characters on screen, so any farewell worth its salt will take advantage of that bond and remind the viewer how much they’ve invested in these fictional creations. While there are more than enough quality goodbyes in film to fill any list, here are 5 that hit me hard. Once more into the breach, shall we?
Behold, a movie built from start to finish about avoiding and then eventually accepting a goodbye. Such a simple story that only J.J.Abrams could mess it up with Super 8, an alien is stranded on Earth and is found by a group of kids. A friendship is forged through mutual curiosity and fear of the towering adults that pursue them (the entire film is shot low from a child’s height). This is one of the films you smack in a skeptic’s face when they claim Spielberg is overrated. The majesty of his filming, the simplicity of the friendship between Ellioooooooot and the alien, and the fear we all had as a generation when E.T. lay dead on the autopsy table (don’t worry, he comes back).
The ending where Elliott and by extension the audience has to say goodbye to E.T. is one of the most heartbreaking farewells in cinematic history. This rubber puppet with an LED finger somehow earns more of our tears than a thousand live actors, and that is the power of this movie.
The film that gave us the Truffle Shuffle, causal racism towards Asians, and a very young Josh Brolin. A film that gave us booby traps, pirate ships, and an antagonist who claimed to be female yet gave no evidence to support that. This film keeps on giving, and it’s no wonder why any goodbye within would choke us up so much. On the surface it’s a story about a group of kids who search for hidden treasure to save their default house from evil developers. As Portland’s current housing crisis is in full swing, I’m sure there are armies of kids attempting such a feat, but this film is a success story. If you dig deeper into this film you’ll find a story about saying goodbye to childhood and innocence, of fear and selfishness. These kids are not old enough to be financially responsible for their parents, yet find themselves as the only way to bail their parents out. Baby Sean Aston has a character arch that finds him kissing a girl, throwing away the inhaler he was dependent on, and giving a speech about how giving up on this treasure quest is giving up on having any control over their lives. “Up there is their time, down here is our time” is the quote that peals back the layer of generational hand off. The kids know they are about to be in charge, and it scares them. Then they fight robbers and play a skeleton piano, so you know, not too serious.
At the end, after all the bootie traps (that’s what I said, bootie traps!) and speeches, Sean gets to say goodbye to the pirate skeleton who’s treasure is saving the day. It’s a touching goodbye where respect is given to the accomplishments of the past (amassing the treasure) and thanking for the good it will do for the future generations. As the ship with the pirate sails off the Oregon coast, we all have a little twinkle in our eyes as we salute the salty dog.
A film that’s been on these lists before, but is all about letting go, I couldn’t go on without mentioning the man with red on him. Billed as a romantic comedy with zombies, this film is deceptively deep and introspective. Of course you have the usual subtext of zombies representing apathy, or wandering through life with no direction. What sets this film apart is how Shaun also has to deal with the toxic relationships that were holding him back from becoming a functional adult. The stepfather he could never live up to, the mother who babied him, the best friend who held him back, the girlfriend he took for granted. These are ideas that could have been explored without zombies, but with the undead knocking at every door and window Shaun had the agency to expedite his personal growth.
Realizing his mother was turning, he goes against all logic and protects her even as he physically sees her turning into a danger to him. Crying, holding a physical shotgun and a metaphorical severing of his ties to her, he is forced to do what’s necessary. We see this again when he realizes his need to stand by his un-motivated friend was in turn making him unmotivated. A zombie film on the surface, a movie about saying goodbye under the surface.Also more zombies.
Much like Michael Bay’s approach to cinema, I’m going to use the shotgun approach to picking a proper goodbye in this film. First you have a film about humanity refusing to say goodbye to the Earth, probably because it’s where Humanity lives. Then you have Bruce Willis refusing to say goodbye to his daughter as she fights to be an independent adult and date Batfleck. These two themes interweave through the story of NASA making one last ditch effort to blow up an asteroid before it turns our planet into a burning crater. Yes the movie is loud, yes everything explodes, but there’s frequent moments of real emotion that raise the bar from Sy-Fy original movie material to blockbuster classic. Beautiful, scary, and just fun, I think it’s Bay’s most successful film.
Furthering the shotgun approach to this entry, we have both Bruce’s goodbye to his daughter as he tricks Ben Batman into living. The speech over the coms to his daughter, the images he sees of her growing up when he dies, the mission patch given to Billy Bob Thornton all build a severely emotional farewell to Bruce, but I’m not done. We also have Will Patton as a father who wanted to say goodbye to his son but his ex-wife stopped him, not knowing the gravity of the situation. When she sees her ex stepping onto the shuttle on the way to certain death, the goodbye she robbed him of with his son is smacked in her face so hard it jumps off the screen and smacks the audience. Then we all share a tear.
This entire trilogy is about saying goodbye. The first one was about saying goodbye to Woody’s lone spot as the favorite toy, and learning how to share, very similar to an only child learning they’re getting a sibling soon. The second film was about saying goodbye to what looks like a great opportunity on paper because it means you would have to sacrifice too much of yourself, similar to turning down a job opportunity because it would mean traveling too much and being away from your family. This third installment has the toys saying goodbye to Andy and the only world they’ve ever known. Parallels could be drawn with moving in with a parent after a divorce and not living with the other parent, or moving away from your childhood neighborhood and leaving behind all your friends and school. Pixar is no stranger to toying with our emotions, and this is one of their crowning achievements. As I say goodbye to the Escapist and the fans and the friends, I can’t help but feel like this movie speaks to me.
In the end, as Andy transfers ownership of his toys to a new child who will play with them, he plays with the toys one more time in a scene that DAMMIT I CRIED AT. I have a 4 year old and recently I broke out some of my old Legos to share with him. Some of my old creations were still intact, and as I saw my son play with these characters that I’d loved for years, this movie shot through my head. that’s the power of film, and why it’s ok to cry at the movies