It’s hard to wrap your mind around really, the idea that while the rest of the world is moving forward one man ages backwards. How can he truly relate to anyone? Any life long friend would have to know, understand and accept his oddity. And his next generation, well, how could he possibly raise a child while he’s slowly reverting into one himself? For me, many of the questions The Curious Case of Benjamin Button raised were given unsatisfying answers, like so many we find in our own lives.
Nevertheless, the film by David Fincher is done beautifully. It feels fresh, real and vibrant even while firmly rooted in fantasy. Brad Pitt portrays Benjamin in his reverse stages of man wonderfully, putting the character first and whatever age -or reverse age- second. As time passes, from the end of WWI, through the sixties, seventies and onwards we get a sense of the changing world, but mostly a changing Benjamin and his life long friend Daisy (Cate Blanchett).
The new perspective from Benjamin’s life is intriguing. His childhood is spent with old people in a retirement home where death is a common visitor. This odd idea of a child’s mind developing in an old man’s body isn’t too hard to grasp. Many times we think of the elderly as reverting back to diapers already. But later in the film where Benjamin has a whole life’s experience in a very young body, it seems more tragic.
I realize to connect to the film, to Benjamin, one needs a real suspension of disbelief. I encourage you to find it, it makes the film very heartwarming and one of those moving film experiences where you leave wanting to live your life to the fullest. But how can we really relate to someone who passes us the opposite direction in life? I’ve tried, I really have, but I’ve only come to one real connection and praise to Benjamin’s life. He lived it, tried to live it well and tried to pass something along to make it all make sense to the next generation. That’s about as noble a life as anyone can live, no matter which way they’re headed.
Now, here’s something I feel like most of us just accepted and didn’t question too much, but how exactly is the clock in the train station connected to Benjamin? Yes, I understand they both run backwards and share a similar lifetime, but I wanted it to be more than just a clever backwards motif to go along with the hurricane and the hummingbird. I wanted a real connection, an answer, and it left me unsatisfied. Because in the end, I hope my life has more meaning and connection than just another convenient motif.
“It’s funny how sometimes the people we remember the least make the greatest impression on us.”