7 Movies to Watch During the Year of Mercy
The Way (2011)
A beautifully orchestrated piece that begins with one man’s journey into the unknown on the sacred pilgrimage of El Camino De Santiago. Upon learning of his distant son’s death on the pilgrimage, and with no idea what will come ahead, Tom Avery (Martin Sheen) sets off to complete the journey that his son did not. He has nothing but his son’s backpack, walking stick and his ashes to accompany him on a walk that not only becomes physically demanding, but one that tests his mind, body and soul along “The Way.” A flashback scene between father and son during the film speaks to me about just what Pope Francis is calling for in this Year of Mercy:”You don’t choose a life, Dad,” Daniel tells his father early on, when Tom is about to drop him off at the airport, “You live one.” This for me talks about the tender love of God and how our journey into faith can deepen others’ and draw others to seek Him by experiencing that love and mercy. Tom Avery was a stubborn and often narcissistic man, but through allowing himself to journey he rediscovered what it was to live. Not only that, but he discovered how challenges that face us are perhaps God’s way of showing us the right path.
Into The Wild (2007)
This entry is another one that involves a journey, this time based on the true story of Christopher McCandless, a young man who is in conflict with the whole concept of society. He decides to leave his family, friends and career prospects behind to live very simply in the wilderness. During his subsequent journey he wrestles with the issue of how to be accepted into society. His conflicts with being an active member in society are shown through the difficult relations he experiences with his parents and people with whom he meets along the way.
I believe that Chris McCandless left society to find some sort of enlightenment. This is a serious, personal movie about what it is to be human and what happens when we admire nature more than humanity. It is a tragic tale that leaves the viewer wondering if humans need today’s society to be happy- but there is no doubt that it reminds us that companionship and love are vital to our lives. This is perfect for the Year of Mercy- a chance to take ourselves away from our hectic schedules and to immerse ourselves in God’s grace and sacraments to cleanse our hearts and minds.
Blade Runner (1982)
Now as a huge sci-fi lover I had to include at least one sci-fi movie, so I’ve included arguably the greatest of them all: Ridley Scott’s 1982 masterpiece Blade Runner. Although it is most prominently about what it means to be human, in a battle of robots (or ‘replicants’) versus humans on Earth, there is much more to it than that. Its approach to this theme is bound up in themes of morality, sacrifice and love conquering all. The debate over whether or not the main character Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is a replicant only adds to the film’s main message – that in the end, it is impossible to divide people, that the only human attribute that can prevail is pure, unconditional love. This is so very important in today’s world of unease. Pope Francis called for a Year of Mercy and this film speaks on how we all should show each other mercy and be united. In particular the ‘Tears in Rain’ speech, (famously improvised by Rutger Hauer), is a confession of humanity’s humble place in the universe, and with it a desire to reach the heavens that lie beyond.
Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Part 1 & 2 (2010)
The last two films of this worldwide phenomenon bring us to an interpretation of Harry Potter that could be seen as portraying an interpretation of Christ. We see Harry wandering through the wilderness, encountering various temptations and trying to protect the people he loves, all the while hearing of the deaths, as well as other horrific acts that his counterpart Voldemort is up to in a world which he loves.
The first film is preparation for Harry’s “ministry,” culminating in his readiness to confront Voldemort, and even appearing to die for the world, but ultimately returning triumphant. A true testament of overcoming adversity in the face of peril, Harry Potter teaches us many valuable traits we need to acquire in order to be a true witness to the Church and to God.
The Lion King (1994)
If you ask any member of my family what my favorite film was as a child, there can be no doubts as to what it is. The Lion King has it all, and only after further viewing as an adult have I understood a stunning connection between it and the Church’s teachings and the Bible itself. The film can be viewed on the one hand as a New Testament analogy which is similar to the adaptation of Narnia, but this Disney story splits the character of Aslan into Mufasa and Simba. Simba returns from the wilderness after a presumed death- which is a substitute for a literal resurrection.
Simba is also reminiscent of Old Testament figures of Moses and Elijah, in the sense that he’s brought out of the wilderness to defeat an evil oppressor and lead his people into a new life and a new beginning.
Little Boy (2015)
This is a sweet story about a “little boy” who desperately wants to bring his father back from serving in the war. The town priest suggested that in order to do this he must perform all of the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. This is a great film to enjoy with the children on a family movie night. It address issues of faith, racism and of course, mercy. You will find a few of your favorite Catholic actors appearing in the film – Kevin James, Eduardo Verástegui, and David Henrie. This movie is definitely a step above the quality of other Christian films (War Room, Fireproof, etc) and will provide laughter, tears and a good moral lesson.
Ruby Sparks (2012)
A beautiful little indie film is the final entry on my list. It is a wonderful fantasy romance by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, about a lonely novelist, struggling with writer’s block, who channels his yearning for love into his typewriter and magics a gorgeous female character of his creation into real life. (Stay with me on this- remember, this is a film!) The novelist has become obsessed with perfection- he wants people to be perfect and he discovers he can control his creation (Ruby Sparks) through his typewriter. It is an intelligent commentary on the creative process, insecurity, controlling behavior and the idealism of the way people think. A charming piece with a soul that moves us to think about why we like people. Is it through their perfections, imperfections or wit, perhaps? The beauty of this film is that the answer will be unique to the individual. A film I would recommend anyone to see in the Year of Mercy as it may make you look at people in a different way- and it is perfect to pause and reflect on why the people in our lives are important to us.