Where The Wild Truths Are
October 29, 2009 · Posted in Media, Parenting, Relationships, Separation/Divorce · Permalink

header_main_wild_thingsJean and I went to see “Where the Wild Things Are” in all its glory on the IMAX screen. Our reactions and thoughts about the film were IMAX in their magnitude, as well. The film addresses the most complex existential questions in family life.

Here’s the story in a nutshell. The screenplay takes Sendak’s short book and places it in the context of a family in the aftermath of a divorce. Max, an adorable, angry, physical and creative boy, lives with his mother and sister. He has huge temper tantrum as his family is about to sit down to dinner with his mother’s new boyfriend. As his mother, with her mixture of embarrassment, anger and exhaustion tries to discipline him, they tangle in a screaming physical battle.  He bites her and runs out the house. The rest of the movie takes us into Max’s inner world.  His imaginative adventures unfold as he tries to come to grips with the reality that life, and family life in particular, will always contain measures of brutality and disappointment along with deep, deep connection and wonder.

His anger and rebellion stem from the desperate desire to know “How can I make everyone OK?” He longs for the magical power to banish hurt and loneliness, and to keep the closest relationships conflict free.  Max, his mother and his “wild things” are all of us as children and parents. The child hopes and demands that his all-powerful parents will protect him and guarantee happiness.  Watching the collision between that wish, and the disappointing truth that parents can’t excise all pain is life-altering. For parents, the movie captures that overwhelming desire to give pure, love-driven perfection to your own children. The sense of failure and helplessness when acknowledging that fantasy is not possible is devastating.

And then, for Max, for us, the rebirth and resolution as the perfect dialectic of pain and pleasure reveals itself. That we are all at once wild, destructive, and needy, creative, forcefully playful and giving– and the love that connects us as family trumps everything. No one can make everyone fine. And that is OK.

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  1. Liz
    October 30th, 2009 | 12:20 pm

    Where The Wild Things Are was always one of my favorite books growing up and I was so excited when I learned they were making it into a film. I have heard mixed reports about whether it is appropriate for young kids – what do you think? Regardless, from your post it sounds like the movie adaptation is worth seeing, even if it is without your children.

  2. kira
    October 31st, 2009 | 10:52 am

    It is a very beautiful film and we took our 4 1/2 and 7 year olds before we’d heard the mixed reports about its suitability for kids. Throughout the film we wondered if it wasn’t too emotionally mature for them – it was, but in the 2 weeks since we saw it, it has come up again and again at home in really wonderful ways. Our 4 1/2 year old is a bit of a max and since seeing the movie, he’s asked a lot of questions about max and about being angry and it’s helped me to talk to him about his own feelings. Our 7 year old loved the story and the music and it helped her to feel proud of how she deals with her feelings – she identified with KW.

  3. Florence
    November 5th, 2009 | 12:12 pm

    Thought-provoking interpretation of a powerfully emotional film. I love that I can come to Parent Talk/Soho Parenting not only for childcare advice but also for exceptional film criticism!

  4. Sasha
    November 15th, 2009 | 1:22 pm

    The blog made me so interested in seeing the movie.

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