If you are searching for something to “do together” as your favorite way of reaching out to your someone, then a movie or an episode of a favorite program can be a low-key, relaxing way to spend a couple of hours together.
Although watching means that conversation will be limited, it still has social benefits. The atmosphere can be familiar and relaxing. As you sit back and let the program unfold, there will be little pressure to be cheerful or keep the conversation going.
Most of all, as you laugh, cry, gasp in surprise, cheer, or scoff at the film, you can react together. You will have a shared experience. That is the biggest difference between watching alone and watching together. Afterwards, everything from the ideas presented to the production quality can continue to spark future conversations, as new thoughts come to mind during later visits.
So Many Choices
To narrow down your options, one choice to think through is your time-frame:
Do you both have the time and energy for a full-length theater movie? Or, is a shorter TV episode a better choice right now? If you both look forward to a movie, is there one that’s an hour and a half, rather than three hours long?
Another way to narrow your choices is to select themes that might be relevant.
Envisioning a better world: While Shane was sick, we enjoyed the TV series House as a lovely fantasy. Envision a world where a whole team of exceptional doctors can dedicate themselves to one patient! Or, watch old episodes of Perry Mason and talk about an imaginary world where defense attorneys would go to the trouble of re-staging an entire day, if necessary, to ensure the truth would come out at your someone’s upcoming hearing.
An inspiration: I went through a phase as a widow when I watched a lot of movies about overcoming — real people who have triumphed even when life didn’t turn out as they had hoped. True stories ranged from grappling with natural disasters (Snowbound: The Jim and Jennifer Stolpa Story) to determination despite disabilities (Temple Grandin).
Tears: Movies can provide a safe way to cry about someone else’s problems. As the producer of one tear-jerking TV series said about what her show provided:
People need to cry, but who has the time?
— Touched By An Angel, Stories from the Hit Television Series! by Martha Williamson and Robin Sheets, p. 23, Zondervan Publishing House, 1997.
Laughter: Just as often, it did us good to laugh about story-lines. Sometimes we chose intentional comedies, light-weight and silly. Other times we found humor in unexpected places — for instance, having watched Shane slowly regain the ability to walk and talk after a coma, we always enjoyed scenes of comatose patients awakening, popping out of bed, and running down hallways.
A contrast: Almost any story includes a conflict — a challenge or struggle of some sort. Movies allow us to examine someone else’s struggles and contrast them with our own. Whether fictional or true, watching from afar can prompt conversations from, “I want to learn to be like him,” to, “I need to be sure I never become like him,” or from, “I would never do that,” to, “I should try being like that.”
The afterlife: Another theme in movies and programs which slightly fascinated us was the afterlife. This is a theme I’m going to spend some time on over the next couple of blogs. Wondering whether our lives continue into an afterlife and what that might look like nags at almost all of us when we are going through hard times. It is a part of big questions regarding whether our hard times are worthwhile in any way or whether there is any meaning to what we are going through.
Dealing With Fears of Death by Imagining Heaven
Death is likely something we all have feared at one time or another, and there is no shortage of films about what happens next.
Many movies about the afterlife are actually a light-hearted way to talk over common concerns. Films can also be an especially safe and focused way to think about more serious and real worries.
It’s sometimes a good thing to sit back, turn off your own thoughts, and watch what someone else has imagined.
No one knows anything about the afterlife, including filmmakers. Even those of us who are confident in an afterlife have very little idea of what it will be like. No holy book gives much guidance in that area, and it may well be beyond our current ability to understand.
When we have no way of digging up facts and turning the unknown into something known, we can instead build a storehouse of imaginary possibilities. Make-believe also supplies new angles to consider. As the director of one such movie explained,
“Obviously, we don’t believe that this is a realistic scenario. God doesn’t take people and put them in alternate realities. But… It starts to make the audience think, ‘What if I was in this spot?'”
— Quoted from What if… (2010), Dallas Jenkins, “Director’s Commentary” 33:10-34:31
Evaluate Your Someone
This idea won’t be for everyone—
- not for those hovering close to serious depression;
- not for those uncomfortable with ideas inconsistent with their faith;
- not for those who do better focusing on life rather than death;
- not for those triggered by scenes that hit too close to home – veterans may have trouble watching war movies, mothers who have lost babies might not be able to watch shows about mothers who don’t take care of their little ones, etc.;
- not for those who can’t concentrate right now.
However, as mentioned, my husband and I went through phases where imagining “the other side” through the lens of different filmmakers intrigued us.
If, like me, you enjoy digging into the ideas that unfold in a story, you might speculate about the theme of a particular movie or the point the moviemaker is trying to illustrate. Despite often light-hearted storylines, there are usually plenty of implications beneath the surface.
If you and your someone would love a good, long conversation, then general discussion might continue by asking one another questions like these:
- How could you fix this movie? make it more realistic? give the audience a better ending? send a better message?
- Does this show reflect the reality you know, the reality you wish you knew, or no reality at all?
- How are unknowns like end-of-life, death, and afterlife portrayed in the film? If Heaven was portrayed, how would it be to spend eternity in the Heaven of this film?
In the next blog, I’ll share a few examples of relevant movies that imagine an afterlife.
Sharing a program can bring out talking points that might not otherwise emerge.
Blog #13, COMMENT BELOW: What do you think of using movies on big topics as a way to spend time together? Do you have experiences to share?