The tagline for the 7 time Academy award-winning Gravity is “Don’t Let Go”. Many individuals I feel interpret this slogan literally, assuming this to be a “space movie” — an assumption that would generally keep many moviegoers away as the science fiction genre doesn’t usually cater to a large audience.
But that didn’t happen. Not even close.
Opening weekend metrics in October 2013 showed that 59% of viewers were over 35 years old, an audience that is usually deluged by teenagers and 20-somethings.
For a “space movie” why did it succeed so well ($700 million+ world-wide box office) and why were the demographics of the movie so different from what movie theaters normally experience?
I saw Gravity twice in IMAX and consider it to be the finest IMAX experience I have ever had. The visuals were beyond astounding and the amount of work that went into them is easily seen (also the accompanying score is the best piece of work I had heard in years). Four years of work went into this film by 2013 Academy Award Best Director Alfonso Cuarón and it’s a labor of love from start to finish.
Gravity is quick viewing at 91 minutes (shorter than many kids’ movies), 180 degrees opposite of the kind of J. R. R. Tolkien epics that Peter Jackson likes to film. It’s a genre that many people wouldn’t be interested in, so short that many individuals would feel they aren’t getting their money’s worth, and it premiered at a time of the year when few mega hits are released.
Why did it work?
I like using movies as teaching/motivational tools because it’s a medium that many people enjoy and it’s a self-contained format that is easy to suggest. Even individuals that love reading usually enjoy watching movies and it’s perfect for a few hours’ escape. Done well you can really make an impact.
Done really well and you have something special.
Gravity is something special.
The premise of the movie is so simple, 2 astronauts in space and something goes terribly wrong. The rest of the movie deals with how these astronauts handle the challenges put in front of them, all with the vacuum and emptiness of space as a backdrop.
Talk about a perfectly subliminal background for this painting of a story.
The main protagonist of the film portrayed wonderfully by Academy Award winner Sandra Bullock is a broken soul. She is on her first mission to space to get away from the life she has been escaping for years, dealing with the horrors of an unspeakable tragedy that has occurred in her life. She is the epitome of simply existing. No life to her life, just making the rounds without enjoying anything that life has to offer. She has her reasons and her justifications are not only sound but understandable to anyone that would have experienced the trauma her character has had to deal with.
Life doesn’t always work out the way we envision or hope.
Trying to escape the pain of her life she finds herself surrounded by the emptiness of space. What a perfect, wonderful metaphor. From the emptiness of her soul she now is faced with the emptiness of physically everything.
It is here where her character has to be reborn.
It is here where she has to re-learn what it means to be alive, why life is WORTH living.
There are times in our lives where we face pain, tragedy, or difficulties so challenging that we don’t know how we can continue, we don’t know how we can move forward. There may be times where we feel it isn’t even worth it, that the life we lived before, the people we loved, the things we had that are no longer existent… it’s a journey no longer worth continuing, a path no longer worth walking.
The real meaning of the tagline of this movie is the reminder to not let go of the precious nature of life in general, that one shouldn’t let go of the fact that life IS worth living and that better days can (and usually will) come again. They might not be the days we expected… in some/many? cases they might be better.
“If you’re going through hell, keep going.” — Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (1940 – 1945, 1951 – 1955)
The tragedies and pains we as humans face when looked at under a microscope are very similar regardless of gender, race, age. Examples of some major ones are:
- Death of a loved one (human, animal)
- Divorce (amicable or not)
- Losing a job
- Relationships that end — romantic, friends, family
- Being betrayed, lied to, wrongly accused of something
THIS is living.
THIS is life.
And sometimes life sucks.
But WE have the choice whether we can let life bring us down when faced with great adversity or we can rise up. WE make the choice whether we will move forward or stay beaten down.
I am not making light of how difficult this task can be. I am not saying that it is something we can figure out in days or weeks or even months. Sometimes it takes years to be able to start putting one foot in front of the other but the key is to NOT give up on life no matter how brutal things are or may seem to be.
I could choose from so many examples because tragedy IS life, hell it’s what made Shakespeare and so many other writers famous but a few noteworthy ones that come to mind are:
- Former Arizona Congresswoman “Gabby” Giffords who was shot in the head in 2011
- Dr. William Petit, the Connecticut doctor whose wife and 2 daughters were killed in a 2007 home invasion
- Solomon Northrup who was a captured free-born African American from New York forced into slavery from 1841 – 1853 and the focal point of 2013 Academy Award Best Picture “12 Years a Slave” based on his own memoir by the same title
I could list dozens, hundreds, THOUSANDS of other examples because THIS is life.
What do these examples all have in common?
Faced with horrible tragedies that most people can never even begin to relate to they made the choice to NOT let go of life, to not let go of LIVING. No matter how hard life deals a blow to you, there is ALWAYS a tomorrow and it’s our own decision whether we focus on the past, the pain, the horror in many cases or we have the right mindset to make every day as good as it can be.
For Ms. Giffords that meant using her story to inspire others and appreciate that she was still here, permanently injured but STILL HERE.
For Dr. Petit that meant marrying again and starting a new family, knowing the joys that can bring first-hand.
For Mr. Northup that would mean letting the world know of what was done to him and using that experience to help make sure such injustices were not forgotten and becoming a strong lecturer for the abolitionist movement in the United States.
I used to be an individual that would always be comparing my own pains to others but finally found that to be a waste of time. I use extreme examples simply to push the point home, as tragedies don’t have to be extreme — all people have issues, all people LIVE.
In life you don’t only have to allow for a happy life again but you have to appreciate all moments where joy can be found. Realize that you are worth it and BELIEVE IT.
I feel that every person needs coaching with something in life — someone or something that drives a point home when we are still in the process of forming a belief system or best practice as a part of our everyday lives. I used to be the person that would throw pity parties for himself; at times beaten down so much (figuratively) that I didn’t know why I should keep picking myself up and trying to put one foot in front of the other. I was the cynical pessimist until the time when I had finally done enough reflection and realized the simple fact that our lives are what WE make of them and there can always be a sunrise in the future if we just learn to not let go of the belief that the sun will rise again.
Don’t let go…