Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Recommendation: Me and You and Everyone We Know

I recently finished watching the independent film Me and You and Everyone We Know by once Portland-native Miranda July. Her film was praised up and down at last year's Sundance Film Festival, and Roger Ebert said it was the best independent film of the year. After watching it myself, I think I agree. The film is spectacular in many ways, and the lead performance by Miranda July herself is one of the best I've seen in awhile.

The gist of the film is this: even in a world where the Internet and cell phones bridge spatial divides, our modern predicament is that we find it incredibly difficult to form meaningful friendships with other people. People who are next-door neighbors may never speak two words to each other. This is our plight. Isolation, individualism, and loneliness are the marks of our era.

Other films have dealt with this theme before, but there is something amazingly endearing and powerful about the way July handles the subject matter. She has some of the most compelling children in her story. In fact, two children -- a young half-African-American boy of maybe 6 and a girl of maybe 9 who is far more mature than her age suggests -- steal this film, despite July's performance. The intricate relationships that are formed, broken, and strained throughout the narrative never feel contrived, and the emotions resonate with perfect realism.

Most profound are the moments of connection, of community and restored relations. The film never plays them up or ruins the simply elegance of human touch; instead, the camera merely lingers for a moment, giving the audience a sense of the profound depth in those seconds when the vast divides between people are bridged; when the brokenness of humanity is, for a moment, healed. Richard (played by John Hawkes) is a separated father of two boys (one is the 6 year-old I mentioned above), but his children are emotionally estranged from him. He asks them to go for a walk one evening. In an attempt to restore the relationship with his children, he asks them questions, including what songs they might like to sing. The older son answers, "Every stone shall cry," explaining that it's a hymn they learned at school. The father asks them to sing it, and so they do. The title is actually just "A Christmas Hymn," and was written by Richard Wilber. In the movie, they sing the following lines:

And every stone shall cry,
And every stone shall cry,
In praises of the child,
By whose descent among us,
The worlds are reconciled.

In a few short moments, the film has profoundly portrayed the meaning of Christmas, and of the gospel itself: reconciliation, restored relationships (to God, others, and ourselves). As the children sing of Christ, who reconciles the world, they are also reconciling with their father. And theirs is not the only reconciliation. Without any sentimentality, the film portrays how indeed the world (of the characters) is reconciled, even in the midst of the death of a beloved person. Me and You and Everyone We Know is an emotionally stirring gift from a talented new artist.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Miscellaneous items

OK, at the risk of sounding self-aggrandizing, I want to point readers to my post and comments from readers about Cavanaugh's lecture on torture. Specifically, I want to point out my recent comment, since I feel like it sums up my views on the church, American evangelicalism, and social action on the part of Christians. I'd be happy to entertain comments in response.

In related news, the article about torture by David Gushee (which I mentioned in my post about Cavanaugh) has finally been published by Christianity Today. I highly recommend it, and I just hope that evangelicals will identify with him, rather than ignore him as being a "leftist" for opposing U.S. policies on torture -- thus implying that he is not a true evangelical.

Thanks to Shane for this next one. Bill O'Reilly, like his fellow clowns, Savage and Coulter and Limbaugh, is ridiculed by MSNBC. Sarcastic and puerile, but it's enjoyable to see nonetheless.

Finally, Amy and I went to The Well today for church, and we really enjoyed it. There's some questions about whether or not I will be able to do my Field Ed internship there, but we're really hoping it works out. The church has a great community, and we feel really good about it.

Friday, February 03, 2006