Jason and I went on a date afternoon yesterday to see The Fighter before the Oscars this evening. It was the last nominated film that I really wanted to see before the awards are handed out. I have always been a Mark Wahlberg fan, and there were so many rave reviews for Christian Bale's performance as a crack addicted ex-boxer that I wanted to check it out for myself.
I loved the film. Christian Bale is astonishing in his ability to utterly inhabit a character; to live in someone else's skin and merge who he is into another person. If he doesn't get the Best Supporting Actor statue tonight for his portrayal of Dickie Eklund, I will be shocked. He deserves it, and then some. The movie touched something personal for me in the family issues it tackled, and clarified a few things in a crystal clear manner for me.
The first is that all families are dysfunctional on some level. Everyone places expectations on everyone else, and falls into roles, and then spends a lifetime trying to untangle some of the knots in their own personal ropes based on childhood. This recognition both comforted and terrified me when I think of my two small children, and what they are learning in our home, and I wonder what their particular struggles will be when they become adults.
The second is that family is important, but there are lines that should not be crossed, and sometimes we have to make hard choices in an effort to change patterns which are not healthy. These decisions have big consequences, and hopefully the hard times are short lived in the context of the overall length of the relationships, and that improvements occur which eventually help everyone.
The third is that long relationships count for something. There are exceptions made for bad behaviour in the name of family, and we will often extend that olive branch again and again for family in a way that we might not do for friends, and hopefully grace and mercy is at play to help smooth over the rough parts. It is true that family is forever, and it's a good thing when you can improve the quality of the interaction so that the forever part of the equation becomes a more satisfying relationship.
I was emotionally invested and involved in this film from the first frame. It felt personal to me, and provided a glimpse into a family which felt familiar to me. It was honest and gritty and real. There were no pat answers or quick fixes in the film, just like life, but there were a group of people who loved each other at the core, and wanted to be loyal to each other, even when that bond came at a high personal price.
It's always easier to resolve situations in a movie setting, but I found hope in the idea that it can be messy to find our own way as adults within our families, particularly when the childhood manner in which you related to one another could use some renovation. It's good to find a better way of relating to each another, but not simple or easy to change the way you functioned before. Change usually involves a fight, in one way or another, and the film beautifully represented this experience for me.