Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Works of Mercy in a Film {A Little Boy Review}

I'd never heard of the film Little Boy by FishFlix.com before having the opportunity to review it and had no idea when the kids and I popped a DVD copy of it into our laptop to view that it would be so apropos for us.

I knew the film was about faith and the love between a little boy and his father.  I did not know it centered largely on the little boy ticking off items from an "ancient list", i.e. the Corporal Works of Mercy, as he mustered faith and held out hope for his father's return from a Japanese prison camp during World War II.  This Works of Mercy focus tied in perfectly with an initiative the kids and I kicked off just this past week with homeschool friends:  a Works of Mercy club! 

What a happy surprise it was for the children and I to recognize the Corporal Works of Mercy in the film  Better still was when my daughter noted that "he shouldn't be doing those things just once.  We are supposed to always do those things..." 


Mixed Messages, Mostly Good

My daughter is right.  We are always to seek opportunities to express virtue and to live faithfully. However, being human,often we do not. 

Little Boy depicts plenty of such "humanness" in the guise of prejudice, bullying, war, and more.  However, it juxtaposes such vice with an equally human ability to befriend, hope, and act with faith. 

Set in a fictional California town during World War II, the movie opens as a narrator recalls his small-statureded eight-year-old self happily engaged with his dad, who happens to be his "only friend" and "partner". 

Soon thereafter, the father goes to war and gets captured by the Japanese in the Philippines.  Thus, the boy, Pepper, who is tormented by town bullies for being little, has to choose between the despair his big brother feels at his father's uncertain future and the faith he might muster to bring his father home.

Inspired by a magician, counseled by a local priest, and supported by a newly made aging friend, Pepper chooses the latter course.  With his child-like belief, he buys mustard seeds that he might "move mountains" to get his father home.  Then, at the prompting of a priest, Pepper focuses his energies on completing an "ancient list" (the Corporal Works of Mercy) in order to find favor with God so that his dad might come home.  (The priest suggests to another character that, if God does not will for Pepper's dad to come home, God will provide Pepper the strength to get through that, too.)

The priest also adds one additional task to Pepper's focus list: befriend an aging Japanese man, who has been recently freed from internment camps and often bears the brunt of local prejudice.  It is through the growing relationship between this man and Pepper that the rest of the story unfolds, albeit predictably at times, with the beauty of the pair's growing friendship, which includes opportunities for the two of them -- different in age, culture, and faith-basis-- to come together in friendship and even defense of one another as Pepper works to bring is dad back from the war.

Unfortunately, in my opinion, the positives of the film promoting Works of Mercy, friendship across barriers, etc. are tarnished a bit by the way it approaches the use of the Atomic bomb at the end of World War II.  Without getting into spoiler details , let me just say that the film does not seem to send a strong enough message about the tragedy of so many Japanese lives lost when the A-bomb nicknamed "Little Boy" was dropped.  

I found I had to stop to discuss briefly with my kids how horrific that incident in history was and how the loss of so many lives should never have been celebrated.  Sure, the end of a war is a good thing, but every life, from conception to natural death, is important in my worldview and I do not feel the movie made this point strongly enough in its treatment of the A-bomb.  (Granted, such a message was not the obvious one the movie was going for, but I still feel the A-bomb scenes could have been treated with greater sensitivity toward the Japanese.)

Thus, I came away from
Little Boy with mixed feelings.  As a whole, I liked the film.  It provided an evening of entertainment for my children and I that tied in well with recent happenings in our lives and sparked some worthwhile discussion about faith, miracles, Works of Mercy, relationships, history, and more.  However, it also seemed a bit predictable at some times and insensitive at others.

All that said, I am glad that we watched the DVD and know we will watch it again, not just for the movie itself, but for the extras on the DVD, too, which included a number of scenes deleted from the final edit of the movie and an animated film short featuring an older woman , a young man, and a snack from a vending machine.

Of these, my five-year-old said:

I liked (the Little Boy DVD).  I want to watch it each day, because of the film short... because it was kind of funny how (the animated woman and young man) both had cookies... I liked the (deleted) scene when they said, "We're going to the moon." I like the battle in the movie, I liked the boy's imagination, and I liked the ending."

My eight-year-old said:

It made my mommy cry.  I did not like the sad parts.  But, I liked how (it ended).  I also liked how the boy thought he made the mountain move even if it was really an earthquake.  I like how they did a group hug at the end. I also liked the deleted scene where everyone was happy, but Little Boy's mommy, because it still had a little happiness in it.

My nine-year-old said:

I liked the video of the magician in the deleted scenes.  It was really funny. I also liked the video in it where the evil person says, "You have to choose..." I liked how the boy in the main film never lost hope. I don't think I could do that..  It is a long movie and I got tired watching it.  It's good, just do not watch it before bed ,because there is a lot of sadness and a few scary parts.  I don' think this movie is good for mommies, because it will make them cry...  It's also not good for people who have just lost a loved one.   I cannot imagine losing my parents.  I think it is a good movie to watch during the day to teach about persistence...

His younger brother then added:
and faith.  I teaches faith.

That it does.  It's a heart-warming story of friendship, family, and faith; vice and virtue; good winning out....  If you're looking for a PG-13, family film that can, in my opinion, be viewed by younger children, too, this is one to consider.

Christian Entertainment at FishFlix.com

FishFlix.com Review

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