Today’s Favorite Family Film is a more recent discovery (how was 2007 ten years ago already?) The story itself is much older, though. I grew up reading Bridge to Terabithia over and over again. It was never one that got read out loud, or at least, I don’t remember it being one that either of my parents ever read to us. It was one I read to myself. I checked it out of the library so many times, I think I pretty much wore out the binding. I KNOW that I left tear-stains on a few of the pages.
Imagine my delight (and skepticism) when I found out they were making this beloved story into a movie!
This is one of those rare occasions where the movie version is just as good as the book. And that’s a tough thing to come by, especially with a book I loved so dearly. But when I watch it, I really feel as though the writers and directors pulled the images directly from my imagination.
Travel back in time to simpler days with Jess, a young boy who lives on a farm and is a bit of a social outcast in school. As the movie opens, Jess has been training hard in order to win a footrace and hopes to use that victory to propel him into the good graces of his classmates. However, when he is beaten in the race by a new student… and a girl… Jess feels that his hopes of acceptance are lost. Despite this rocky start to their relationship, Jess and Leslie soon become true friends. Leslie encourages Jess in his love of art, and then sweeps Jess along into an imaginary world of her own creation where they are King and Queen of Terabithia: a magical realm filled with amazing creatures. Together they go on epic adventures in their imagination and translate what they learn in their make-believe play into courage and loyalty in the real world.
I must warn you, though. I thought everyone had read this book. It was kind of a staple of my childhood. All of my friends were required to read it in grade school… so I just sort of assumed it was like Tom Sawyer… and that everyone was familiar with the plot. When I went to see it in the theaters, imagine my surprise at discovering my husband had never read the book. Not knowing this, I did not warn him that the end is very sad. Those tear-stains I mentioned? Yeah, that’s not just because this is a sweet story. It is also achingly tragic. The end of this movie will rip your heart out and make you cry… so, be warned, the story stays unswervingly close to the original storyline. (My husband… erm… refuses to ever watch this movie again).
But there is beauty in this sorrow. I highly recommend you read the book… and then watch the movie. Or watch the movie… and then read the book. They are both that good, I don’t even know which to recommend first! (Upon further consideration… probably read the book first. It might soften the blow at the end of the movie… since you’ll know it’s coming and be prepared for it).
I’m not even sure what genre to put this movie into. Perhaps it fits best where most of my favorite movies go, as my sister once said to a classmate who couldn’t believe she hadn’t seen some big-name movie, “If there was a category in the video-store labelled ‘wholesome,’ I’ve probably seen every movie that would be in that section.”
Have you seen this movie? Have you read the book? Which did you enjoy more? I’d love to hear your thoughts!