Two Must-See Fall Films with Purpose


Two motion pictures hitting the screens this fall have important messages. One is a modern love story, the other a fictional piece of work about an important time in history.  They are different yet both have a common thread passing through their stories about the quickness and fragility of life. 

About Time is the latest film by writer and filmmaker Richard Curtis, set to open nationwide this Friday starring Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy and Lindsay Duncan. If you loved Curtis' other films, which include Notting Hill, Love Actually and Four Weddings and a Funeral, you will love this one. Curtis has a distinctive voice that weaves through his work.

About Time
Image: Universal Studios

The film revolves around 21 year-old Tim and his eccentric, loving family. When he finds out from his dad that the men in his family can travel back in time, he decides to make the world a better place using his newfound power.  Life has to be lived. The film will remind you to appreciate life, appreciate love and appreciate the people around you. In typical Curtis style, the casting is impeccable, the film locations set the tone for the dialogue and action and the music accompanies the material in superb harmony (the soundtrack includes The Cure, The Killers, Dolly Parton, Cat Powers, Ron Sexsmith and Nick Cage).

In real life, Curtis realized that life was passing him by, which is why he decided to dedicate several years to this film. At a recent press junket, he said:

The idea for the film, in fact, I can specifically remember, and often you can’t – it came from a conversation with a friend about whether or not we were happy, and we both came to the conclusion we were not as happy as we should be.  And we kept talking about what would be the perfect day.  And we said, ten years ago, we would have said we’d like to fly to Las Vegas, win $1 million, get a text saying that you’ll be nominated for an Oscar.  And now, the happiest day was the one we were having, just having lunch with each other, taking your kids to school, having dinner with the family. And I thought how can I write a film about something as simple and it seemed to be important to me as possible.  And I thought, well, the only way is make up a huge contraption of time travel, create a character who can go anywhere, make any of these choices, and if that person chooses to go back just to a normal day, then you might be able to make the point in a way with some jokes, as well.

The film is a reminder of the small moments in our life that need to be noticed.  We tend to get so busy that we neglect to stop and see what's going on around us.  In the end, making the most of life may not need time travel at all.

Another small film with a big mission is The Book Thief,  based on the New York Times best selling book by Martin Zusak, also coming to theaters next week.  Not only is the film a memorial to the six million innocent Jews taken in World War II, it's about the role that humanity had in trying to help them survive.

The Book Thief
Image: 20th Century Fox

Brian Percival, a UK film maker, who hails from Downtown Abbey fame, has created one of the most faithful adaptations I've ever witnessed.  He has clearly worked very, very hard to maintain the book’s integrity with his cast choices, production elements and attention to detail of the period as dictated by Zusak’s words.  The film stars Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson, Sophie Nélisse and Ben Schnetzer.

The story follows Liesel, a book-hungry girl adopted by a German couple shortly before the start of World War II. When her family chooses to house Max, a young Jew, they immediately put their lives in danger and make sacrifices they never dreamed of making. Max and Liesel quickly cultivate a deep friendship, and it is one that changes their lives forever.

What will strike you when you see the film is how faithful it is to the book, so get reading now.  Whether you know something about this period of history or not, it will get you thinking about the people who were left behind. And it may teach you about death.  At least that's what Percival wanted, and he made a vital decision to keep the book's narrator, the voice of death, central to the film. He elaborated at a press junket:

I think that the whole thing that struck me, and something that we tried to get across, when I first read the script and then read the book was that, I know it sounds weird, but death could be beautiful in a funny sort of way.  It doesn't have to be this horrible dreadful demise that we all fear.  And indeed, many people that have read the book have actually, myself included, come away from it feeling that when the time comes, it might not be so bad if you've got somebody to look out for you.  So there was an inevitability about what was going to happen as soon as death finally arrived in the film.  We had this velvety soft confident voice in many ways. I think that was the intention.  That was the time that it really didn't go too hard and too real.  I wanted this to go to as wide an audience as possible because the disparity of the book is the most wonderful thing about it. 

Everyone in the cast made every effort while filming The Book Thief  to explore how the Holocaust effected German citizens, not just the Jewish population.  While filming in Germany, Watson met an actress whose family had been there.  She said, "After a long time, I managed to kind of get the courage to ask her, were your family involved, what happened in the war, is it okay for me to ask?  And her eyes filled with tears, and she really wanted to talk about it, but she’d been brought up to believe that her grandparents and her parents, because she was then in East Germany, that they had not been involved, they had not been in any way compromised, and they’d been successful and strong people and good people. She’d sort of built her career and her life on that belief that I come from a stock of people with integrity, and then she found out it wasn’t true, that her grandparents had been in the Nazi party and that her parents had spied. It just all came out and she was devastated by it.  She was really destroyed by it.”

Each film sets out to teach its audience something important, and that is a reason to mark your diaries this fall to make time for each film.  The Book Thief  hits theaters on November 8th; About Time is playing now.


Holly Rosen Fink


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