It’s Saturday night and I’m sitting alone, on the couch, with puffy eyes and a pile of Kleenex. I just finished watching Up and feel like I’ve just watched the last 10 years of my life play before me on my TV screen.
Up tells the story of recent widower Carl who, on the morning he’s supposed to give up his home and move into an assisted living community, attaches hundreds of balloons to his house and sets off for South America, fulfilling a dream he and his late wife shared. Precocious boy scout Russell, trying to earn his “assistance to the elderly” badge, unexpectedly ends up going along for the ride.
Colorful, cheerful and full of quirky characters, Up is a delightful kids film. Where the parental warning should come in is for the parents. Heads up, adults! While Up may appear a funny and foolish movie for children, there are some highly adult themes woven through.
Up‘s message is about the importance of letting go of the past, letting go of the baggage keeping you from living a full and adventurous life. It’s also about compassion, community, relationships and savoring the small, “boring” moments that are the moments that make life sweet. [Carl and Russell on the curb eating ice cream.]
I think that’s what makes this movie so affecting for adults — everyone can relate to Carl’s struggle to let go of the past. Frequently we’re left dragging around our house on our backs, tied to it with a rope around our chests, lugging around a lifetime’s worth of clutter and baggage. We attach so much importance and value to these things, that we miss out on the adventures of life unfolding in front of our eyes, determined to keep dragging the house as we plod down the path we think we should be on.
When we’re asked to give this mental/emotional/physical baggage up, when we’re challenged to think or act differently, we become defensive. In one scene, Carl yells at Russell, “I didn’t ask for any of this!” Whether or not we asked for it, this is our life. Good, bad or indifferent. And like Carl, in order to move on, we need to let it go.
Maybe this movie affected me so much because of where I am in my life right now. Maybe it’s affected all adults like this: parents and grandparents surreptitiously blinking back the tears in a dark theatre. Either way, I love it and feel like I got as much out of this movie as a top-notch yoga workshop or meditation workshop. Pretty awesome when modern media can achieve something like that.