Learning some life lessons from Pixar’s “Up”

There are two lines in Pete Docter’s wonderful Up that, in particular, struck me as memorable.

The first one is an offhand remark made by a little kid. Recounting the outings he went on with his father (who’s separated from his mother), he realises they may be of little significance to the listener. He says, “That might sound boring. But I think the boring stuff is the stuff I remember the most.” That observation brought a huge smile to my face. Whenever we look back at our past, aren’t the trivial things the ones that we reminisce about with the most fondness?

The second one is a message left to a man by his wife (who’s no more). Thanking him for the years they spent together, she calls their married life an “adventure” and tells him to go have a new adventure. This man, Carl, is living a life of incessant regret. He’s unable to get over the loss of his wife Ellie, and spends the first two acts of the film pursuing something that ultimately doesn’t give him any satisfaction. As John Lennon once said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”, and seeing photographs of the little moments he enjoyed with Ellie goes a long way towards helping Carl finally let go of the shackles he has placed on himself.

As it is, the minute preceding this makes me teary-eyed, but this note? Sigh.

Up is a beautiful film. Not often do you get a film tackling heady themes (like living with the loss of a loved one) with success. A studio-produced, multimillion-dollar, animated film doing so is even rarer. There are moments in Up of such sublime beauty, wit and poetic wisdom that it’s hard to remain unmoved.

One of those moments is a montage at the start of the film. Set to a whimsical composition by Michael Giacchino, the sequence depicts Carl-and-Ellie’s life from the time they get married until she dies. Lacking any dialogue (but not any lesser for it), the director Pete Doctor succinctly but sufficiently highlights incidents that are so relatable they may actually be about us. Carl and Ellie have a glass jar in which they deposit any change they have because they’re gathering funds to go to Paradise Falls, a lifelong dream. But unfortunately, real-life intervenes and they extract money from the jar for repairing a flat tire, a damaged roof and a broken window-pane. By the time they reach old age, the box is tucked away inside, as they’re so engrossed in day-to-day life that they no longer think about fulfilling their dream. When the film shows an image of the box lying neglected, it hits you because something like that has happened to you too. Be it a job, a mishap or just life in general… our dreams often move away from the spotlight and we don’t even realise when that happens.

Sometimes, a single close-up is all that's necessary.

I’ll wrap up this remembrance with a quote from the director, who describes the message of the movie perfectly:

Basically, the message of the film is that the real adventure of life is the relationship we have with other people, and it’s so easy to lose sight of the things we have and the people that are around us until they’re gone. More often than not, I don’t really realize how lucky I was to have known someone until they’re either moved or passed away. So, if you can kind of wake up a little bit and go, “Wow, I’ve got some really cool stuff around me every day”, then that’s what the movie’s about.

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  • http://www.akshul.com/ Akshay Bakshi

    Indeed. ‘Up’ is one of the most beautiful movies I have seen, and not just for the animation. Its about LIVING life. The initial sequence of Carl and Ellie’s life and later when Carl realizes that he can do more than just fulfil his wife’s dream of Paradise Falls. So, much to see, read, listen and do in life and this movie touches upon this message in a really heartwarming way.

  • http://twitter.com/EricDSnider EricDSnider

    An eloquent description of a lovely movie. Well done.

  • Ron Aromin

    One of things I really learn out the movie is: it really doesn’t matter how old you are in reaching your dream… There is no age where you stop dreaming,
    Infact is im already 27 years old And yet still dreaming.
    Dreaming of something big. Never stopping.
    I got my heart broke, committed some mistakes.
    Not even DIABETES STOPPED me… A.Ron…. Life goes on…