Tuesday, September 15, 2009


I am absolutely stunned by this movie. It made me nervous at first to have Terry Gilliam give an apologetic for the movie just before it began. But after watching it for ten minutes I understood. The film is exposing this young girl to everything that parents want to protect their children from-- and some things we would want to protect anyone from-- and then observing her reactions. It is a wonderful, terrible feeling, watching this movie. On the one hand, you want to save this girl-- much like in Pan's Labyrinth-- but on the other, you are amazed at her resilience, her wonder, her determination not to be afraid at all cost.

And Jodelle Ferland is spot on. She plays the precocious child (of which I fathered at least one) with exactness. Nothing can phase her, for everything is new, and wondrous and whatever she doesn't care for, she will just reinvent. Jodelle was utterly believable, and I think that few could really pull this off.

In a way, this movie did what A.I.: Artificial Intelligence attempted and was unable to do. Both AI and Tideland are attempting to put children in very adult situations, to see them from their point of view. Curiously, although I love AI for what it is, that Spielberg film was too fantastic, but this Gilliam film was completely realistic. I believed that everything I saw was possible, no matter how outlandish it seemed. I know people just like Dickens and Noah (two excellent performances by Brenden Fletcher and Jeff Bridges), I know people who could be Dell. Put them in the right situation-- and my daughter (God forbid) in the lead-- and this story would play out.

One of the things it makes me think about is children living in an adult world. Although I protect my children a bit, I've always been a believer in safely exposing them to the adult world sooner rather than later. Part of that is just self defense, because as workers with the homeless and mentally ill, we have drunks, addicts, schizophrenics, bi-polar, etc. over to our house all the time. And these people sometimes become friends with my children (under observation) and then turn around and disappear, or change personalities, or die. While most people wouldn't consider this a great environment to raise one's kids, I think that overall, it's been good. Children really are resilient, as this movie shows. Rather than be damaged for life, they learn to be strong, to deal with people unlike themselves and to be who they are despite what their friends are like.

When Jeliza-Rose gets older, she will shake her head at the experiences she had when she was younger. She might even be ashamed at her ignorance. But because it gave her opportunities to experience what most people never would, she could take that and respond differently to life than others. With more strength, quite possibly.

One last thing to say. The ending was perfect. It was both a natural outcome of the story, and a complete finish. Just perfect.


LeeAnn said...

Do you think that the kids look at the way you (and other adults, but less so) respond to volatile people and circumstances? -If you're in good space, & trusting God they internalize these aspects of you. So, it seems without your stability, they could have the safest environment and be fearful and unable to cope. Thoughts?

Steve Kimes said...

Yeah, that's true, LeeAnne. But the point of the movie seems to be that children are strong, in their own way, even without parents. Their form of strength may not help them in an adult life-- like what we hope for our kids-- but like Alice, the strangest events or people are interpreted in such a way to make sense in their own minds.

What we do is not only help our kids make sense of things, but to interpret events and people in a way that will make sense to them as followers of Jesus. That's the attempt, anyway.

One last thing: I didn't know this before I wrote this review, but I guess Tideland is a generally hated movie. I can see why, because it is really uncomfortable to see a little girl around Mercy's age (9) dealing with a lot of terrible events and people. But like the director, Terry Gilliam, said in an introduction, we should be seeing the film through a child's eyes, not with our adult sensibilities. In other words, see the wonder from a child's eyes, not the horror from an adult perspective.

LeeAnn said...
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LeeAnn said...

Could only get through several minutes of the movie on youtube, and did NOT see the intro. that you referred to. The way that the child is portrayed to me, made it appear that the writer possibly endorses the idea that kids really are this strong: some adults REALLY do lean on kids in appropriately, and this father is completely unaware of her as a child, or as having human emotional needs. Enough of society is like this.

From personal experience, when bad things happen, and there's no trustworthy adult, a child will personalize the experience, thinking it's their fault or that they're defective, vs. see traumatic events in wonder...

But maybe he's doing what the makers of Archie Bunker did: sort of sat next to the audience, looking at Archie's racism, saying "You aren't like THAT guy, are you?" (This was pointed out to me at MBC in Bible as lit. study class re: genres.) So maybe I'll have another go at this movie that makes seemingly offensive statements.

"Their form of strength may not help them in an adult life--" Agreed. Alice Miller, a German psychologist, wrote something you might like ("like" is the wrong word!) -or appreciate: "The Drama Of The Gifted Child" (i.e. the gift that you are referring to here) and "Thou Shalt Not Be Aware". The former is short.