When I was a kid, I was a great pretender. No, I don't mean I spent my childhood lying to my parents and fake-crying to get what I wanted. I mean I spent most of it making up stories about everything from princesses to mad scientists and acting them out in backyards, basements, and fort-houses around town. In a way, part of me wishes I still had such a great imagination, that I could still find such enjoyment and satisfaction from simply imagining the life I was living. But after living a few more years in the real world than inside my play kitchen, I also know that no matter how great a story, imagination only goes so far. And, at some point, we need the stories we depend upon to become real.
Looking back on my childhood days of pretend, I would have to say that there were two primary stories that made up my imaginary life. The first: that I was living a life of adventure, excitement, and purpose. The second: that when danger and threat happened to enter that amazing life, I always had someone standing by ready to be my hero, to save me from whatever threatened me, and to prove that I was worth saving. And as I watched Nim's Island the other day, I couldn't help but see those two very same stories at its center, and the necessity for them to become more real at its core.
For Nim (Abigail Breslin), a young girl who has spent her entire life on a secret island, her life is already full of adventure. She is living my Swiss Family Robinson dream. She has animal friends with whom she spends her days. And as one of only two people on her island, she holds a place of pretty prime importance in her world. But as much as adventure is a part of her reality, when trouble comes, the problem she faces is that none of her heroes have yet to prove themselves to be real. All her life, her father has told her what an amazing woman her mother was. How beautiful she was, how talented she was, and how much she loved her daughter. But the problem is, all of that only exists in the almost mythical tale that ends with her mother being swallowed by a whale and never returning.
As the only provider in her life, Nim's father (Gerard Butler) could easily be said to love and care for Nim above and beyond and in a way that does its best to make up for her mother's absence. He is a great father and loves her more than anything. But when he disappears amidst a mix of natural and human forces resembling those that took Nim's mother, Nim suddenly finds herself in a world without a hero to save her. As hours stretch into days, her father begins to slip out of the realm of reality and into the same mythical realm her mother occupies. And so, it is in this desperation, in this need for a hero who is more than a departed legend that she reaches out for help from the only other hero she knows—Alex Rover (also Gerard Butler).
The problem is that Alex Rover isn't real at all. In the same way that Nim's mother only lives in the stories that Nim's father tells her, Alex Rover the adventure hero only exists on the pages of Nim's favorite adventure series. When Nim sends out a plea for help to the man who can get himself out of anything, the person who actually gets it is Alexandra Rover (Jodie Foster), Alex's creator. And let's just say, as much as Alexandra can write adventure, courage, and triumph, when it comes to actually living a life that knows those stories as a part of its reality, her extreme agoraphobia creates quite a distance between her and the character she gave her name.
If Nim needs a hero to save her and give her life meaning, Alexandra needs to know that she can be a hero to save her life and give it meaning. Just about the time that Nim contacts Alex/Alexandra, Alexandra's ability to live vicariously through Alex is wearing alarmingly thin. And so, although every fiber of Alexandra's being does not want to even open her front door, it is as if the knowledge of what life is supposed to be pulls her from her fantasy and pushes her to grasp onto its reality.
As Nim's Island unfolds, we find ourselves watching as a young girl and a woman struggle for the stories of purpose and value they only know in their minds to become their reality. For both, one part of their journey is simply the need for reality to step in and show them that heroes and purpose do exist. But for both, their paths also require them to trust in the ways that reality actually reveals itself to them, to believe that those paths lead them towards life instead of destruction, and to recognize that reaching out to someone/something is actually better than going at it alone.
Although I have never found myself in quite the extreme situations that Nim and Alexandra find themselves, I have to say that their journey is familiar. It is the curse of watching too many romantic comedies and having far too few dates. It is the misery of spending six-plus hours a week watching movies where everyone discovers the lives they are meant to lead and barely having time to live my own. And it is the "you've got to be kidding me" feeling I will always remember getting when someone asked me how I was feeling, I told them I felt like I needed a hug, and they told me to imagine I was being hugged.
But thankfully, for Nim, Alexandra, and myself, the stories that remind us that our lives are worth living and we are worth saving are ones that have proved themselves to be true. Just as Nim's father promises to return to Nim with jar-of-life just for her, so did God. In the same way that Alex pushes Alexandra to get out and grab hold of the life waiting for her, so will God. Just as both Nim and Alexandra have to reach out and trust in the sometimes unusual ways that life chooses to meet them, so must we. And with the same promise of the new and exciting life of adventure that lies ahead of Nim and Alexandra as they finally meet the reality of the promises they have been seeking, so too may we look forward to a life lived in the hands of God.
This article was first published at HollywoodJesus.com: Pop Culture from a Spiritual Point of View. Visit www.hollywoodjesus.com.
Catch the latest pop music videos from Amy Grant, Brandon Heath, MercyMe, Francesca Battistelli,...
When an investigative reporter comes to Walton's Mountain to write a historical guide to the State...
Jason Walton stretches himself to the breaking point by working too hard to prove his self-worth.
In the pilot episode of the series, a reverend and his wife work to give each of their five...
Amy, Maxine and Lauren have trouble adjusting to their new living arrangements; Vincent returns for...
Download of the Week
Pivotal scenes in a movie are even more exciting and inspiring with great music. Listen and download a song from the...