SPOILER ALERT: The following blog post will contain spoilers of major plot points for the movie Tomorrowland. In order to say what I want to say, I have to discuss these plot points. If you don’t want the movie spoiled for you, go see it before reading this blog post.
It was the movie that Howard and I picked for a date. We left the kids to put themselves to bed and ran out for a ten o’clock showing. There is something incredibly freeing in abandoning responsible weeknight behavior to just to see a film that intrigued me. I’m so very glad I did. I loved this movie. I don’t know if everyone will love it as much as I do. It might seem too simplistic to some, too optimistic to others. It is often silly and there is a climactic rant that really doesn’t work the way it needs to. Pulling all the dreamers, inventors, and creators from general society and putting them in a separate place is not likely to result in the futuristic world that is shown on the screen. There are large swathes of realism missing. It is fantasy. For most people I think it will just be a fun adventure movie. For me, it drilled into the very core of issues I have been struggling with. The movie becomes a metaphor for my struggles and left me feeling hope. Hope has been in short supply for me lately. I never expected a movie to gift it to me.
I will freely admit that lots of media things have been hitting me in oddly emotional ways lately. I’ll be listening to a song and suddenly find myself crying because the theme of the song opens up a pocket of emotion. The most memorable was in December when I found myself sobbing during the movie trailer for Annie, because in that moment I did not believe that the sun would come out tomorrow. I couldn’t see how anything would ever get better, yet I remembered when that song was uplifting and joyful. I cried because there were people in the world for which waiting a day would make things better. And I wasn’t one of them. All the tomorrows felt bleak.
Tomorrowland begins by showing a bright and beautiful future. The characters see it and are thrilled by it. I saw it and was filled with a sense of wonder. Then we are told that somehow modern life went awry. We are not aimed at a future with jetpacks, flying trains, and floating swimming pools. Instead the modern world is falling apart and aimed toward destruction. The big plot reveal is that the huge tower that was created to analyze and predict the future has instead been broadcasting a miasma of hopelessness. The tower has been self-fulfilling its own prophecy of destruction. This is only discovered because the protagonist, Casey, is determined and refuses to give up. She works with others to destroy the tower and the bright future becomes possible again. Not easy, but possible.
I envisioned a bright future. I think most parents do when they have young kids. It is hard to be on duty 24-7, cleaning up messes, teaching, and loving. You must to have hope to keep going. Those years when my kids were small I watched them become smarter and more capable. All my experience as a parent led me to expect that would continue. Yes there would be bumps and struggles, but they would grow and in the end my job would be to let go so they could fly on their own. That was the future I expected: watching my children fly and build lives based on their own dreams. My oldest did, but my second child has grown smaller, less able to manage, as he is buried under depression. My third is growing and strong, but she wasn’t two years ago, and I’m very afraid she will struggle again. My youngest is developing a panic disorder while I watch. I can’t see the bright future anymore. It feels as if we are doomed to struggle forever.
So when I see Casey touch a pin and her gray world vanishes, I want to take that trip with her. I would dearly love to find the hidden tower that is sending out the fog of depression and anxiety. Then I would blow that thing up into tiny, tiny pieces. The movie shows me that when all seems lost, determination and a moment of inspiration can transform loss into victory. I long to believe it is true. I’m willing to try because the movie had clever story elements. It delighted me and made me laugh, so when the hard parts came I was willing to mourn. The story and characters led me through despair and out to a place where people have power over their future. I was able to believe in it because the victory was not free. There was a cost, and for once Disney did not remove that cost once audience tears had been produced. This movie reached inside my heart with its story and unlocked a hidden reservoir of hope that I didn’t even know I had. Tears rolled down my face for half of the credits. They’re rolling now as I write.
This is the power the right story has in a life. Before the movie, I couldn’t see any bright future, after I could believe that one is out there, I just can’t see it from where I’m standing. I need to find the right tool to let me get glimpses of it while I navigate the real world around me. We’ll keep wending our way forward and trusting that the process will help.
It was after midnight when we walked out of the theater. The theater itself is new and full of the most advanced technology currently available. It was just shiny new enough to make me feel as if I were walking through a hallway of Tomorrowland. No one else was there, just Howard and I walking down the empty hall to the exit. I loved that moment too. At home, I got online and ordered a movie replica Tomorrowland pin. I felt a little silly doing so, but I really want to hold one. I want to have a talisman to remind me that bright futures are possible even when it seems that they are not. It is not rational to think a pin can make a difference in my life, but then the things I am struggling against are not rational. Depression and anxiety defy logic, so maybe I need some irrational tools to fend them off.
Tomorrowland is not a perfect movie, but it is exactly the movie I needed right now. It gave me back the belief in bright tomorrows. I will wear my pin and remember that on the days when things are hard.