The curious case of Benjamin Button

Please do not read if you do not want to know what happened in the movie!

I just saw the movie ‘The curious case of Benjamin Button’ and it really made me think. My sister had actually recommended it to me the previous week so I sent her a text message to tell her I was going to see it and the following text dialogue ensued.

Me: Off to see ‘Curious case’
Sister: Take your sleeping bag with you…
Me (at the ticket counter): Should I see ‘Seven Pounds’ instead
Sister: No, see ‘Curious case’
Me (as soon as I had bought the ticket): Just got the ticket
Sister: Enjoy and don’t snore too loud
Me (as I got seated in the cinema): Lying down, ready to snooze

After the movie, as I got home I texted my sister (who lives in London by the way)
Me: I liked it, sad though
Sister: lol trust you to like it. Just saw ‘Notorious’ it was ok what you’ll expect innit?
Me: Sad, making me reflective, life is too short
Sister: Really? Well what can you do?

The story in a nutshell is about Benjamin, whose mother dies on the night of his birth. He is abandoned on the same night by his father because he looks abnormal. He is raised by a black woman who is the care taker of an old people’s home. Benjamin, we later discover has a rare condition which makes him age backwards. So he was born in his 80s and we watch him grow younger and younger throughout the movie. The movie revolves around Benjamin and various relationships with different people coming into and out of his life.

When I got home, I googled the movie and read the reviews. While most people agreed it was a good movie overall, majority felt it dragged at the middle with the beginning and the ending being the best bits. I guess that’s what my sister was referring to when she said ‘take your sleeping bag’. But I didn’t find it boring at all. I watched intriguingly all through until I felt myself going up and down with emotion. Now I am a romantic at heart, I love to see people in love; there is nothing in the world that gives me more joy than seeing two people, a man and a woman displaying affection. No matter the mood I am in, the image of two people being happy together always puts a smile on my face and immense joy in my heart.

Anyway, I felt joy in my heart in the scenes when the leading man (Benjamin played by Brad Pitt) and leading lady (Daisy played by Cate Blanchett) become a couple and move into their own home. For all those happy scenes of a couple in love and for all the laughter that filled those happy scenes, I felt my heart overrun with joy and the loveliest of feelings. But my joy did not last long. Within minutes I was in tears. All the joy turned to sorrow and loss as our leading man Benjamin (who is now about 50 but looks like he is in his 30s), decides to leave his young family. He gives 2 reasons for his choice; the first being to lessen the burden on his wife having a future with a child for a husband or as he put it ‘raising 2 children’, him being 1 of the children given his rare condition and the second reason being not wanting his daughter growing up with a playmate instead of a father. For the rest of the movie, we watch Benjamin become a shadow of the character we have grown to love, he slowly dwindles back into time. We watch him develop backwards into his 20s, then to becoming a troubled teenager and impetuous child, till his death as a baby. The movie is an unusual plot and an unlikely circumstance but with movies I tend to suspend my disbelief and sieve out the best of the movie. It’s an unlikely real life story I agree but for me there was a lot to learn.

For me it’s a story about a lot of things. A story about love, friendship, fear, acceptance, self pity, pride, youthful exuberance, kindness, fate, faith, laughter, sorrow, loss, beauty, vanity, hope and lastly but nowhere least…a story about Time. An invaluable resource that depletes by the second. I thought about the movie all through the night. Even through my sleep and when I got up the next morning, I couldn’t stop thinking about. I kept thinking that life is too short and time keeps on ticking regardless of how you decide to live your life. It’s not like I haven’t always known this but sometimes certain occurrences push the reality in your face. Now whether you are aging normally or backwards like Benjamin, it really doesn’t make a difference. Time still ticks on. There were times Benjamin probably wished he could hold the hands of time but he couldn’t and for that reason he made a decision to leave his family. I could hear a lady sitting behind me at the movies saying ‘that’s selfish’, but sometimes we all make decisions which we think are the best for everyone especially ourselves. Life is indeed too short, so let’s do what we need to do now! Procrastination only postpones the D-DAY and the sad thing about time is you only ever get one chance at it. Yesterday is gone and by tomorrow today will be gone too. Every day we have one less day to live and one less day to do all we wanted to do. Even looking at it from the bright side, today can be the first day of the rest of your life but the days before are gone already.

It’s also a story about acceptance and love. This thing called love I have found to be a universal language. Be it romantic love or whatever kind of love you want to call it, it still feels great. Now I know that it can be a wonderful feeling to know that you are accepted whole heartedly as you are without any requirement to change who or what you are. That feeling is awesome. I felt it for Benjamin several times whenever he met someone who accepted him as he was. Although acceptance begins with accepting one’s self, it’s not an end itself. But when you find acceptance within yourself and then it is extended to other people or better still a special person it is a wonderful feeling. I felt the love between the couple (Benjamin and Daisy) over time and years that passed between them. I even felt the love between him and the eloquent rich lady he had an affair with at the hotel. It just proved the same thing; that a lot of us are seeking the same things at the end of the day… someone to love us as we are. The lady, though rich and cultured was no different from anyone of us. Just another lonely heart, seeking love, seeking acceptance. To love and be loved is indeed one of the most special places to be. Some people are indeed special. There are some people you just love forever. They come into your life and you just love them without reason. God help us.

It’s also a story of idolatry, how we love things so much and cannot think of life without those things until they are taken away from us. Sometimes it’s a person, a job, a career, for women it can be our hair, skin, shoes and bags. We hold so much value to them that they become nothing short of a god to us because of the amount of time we dedicate and invest in these things. The way we spend our time and thoughts show us who our gods are. The leading lady Daisy was a beautiful dancer. Her whole life revolved around dancing, rehearsals and shows till she had an accident causing injury to her legs, then she felt it was all over. Had her invested time or attitude towards dancing been different, her recovery would have been quicker without a doubt but instead it took her years to get back herself. Her body and dancing was her whole life and when it went, she wanted to die with it. I can see this happening around me all the time when we idolize things and people. And yes, I have had my fair share of experiences; once with a car I loved so much I used to talk to it. It sounds so crazy now but I loved it that much. I used to park it in a side street by the station and as I returned back from work every day, as soon as I caught a glimpse of it, I used to talk to it, ask it how it was doing and smile like I had just been whisked to the love zone. I loved it.

I really loved that car. Till one day it was gone. I had an accident on the highway and the car was written off. I was in so much shock, I just took the train home and left the car right there on the highway. I never saw it again. I didn’t drive for over 6 months and when I finally replaced it with another car; I couldn’t care less about the new car. My love affair with cars was over. The strange thing is that ever since that accident my driving has never been the same. But what’s the lesson here, for me it’s that shockers; accidents, losses and tragedies happen for a reason. I think they happen to shake us up a little bit and give us a reality check.

I also saw in the movie how one man’s monster can be another woman’s gift. I saw in Benjamin’s father, a proud man who had a name and image to preserve. He could not imagine having what he deemed as a monster for a child. Yet this same abandoned abnormal looking baby was taken into care by a woman who had been praying for the fruit of the womb. In her eyes it was a special baby. If she didn’t face peculiar circumstances perhaps she wouldn’t have kept the baby. It’s amazing how peculiar circumstances in our lives make us very sensitive to certain issues. Had we not experienced something first hand, our empathy and sentiments would easily have been at bay. With Benjamin’s father on the other hand, we see how pride and image can be the very thing guiding our decision making. Decisions based solely on perception of others and our self image. Selfish indeed.

I know a lot of people will be thinking it’s just a movie, it’s so unreal, I mean I heard people laughing at all the scenes I was sad at … but in my life I have found reality to be far, far stranger than fiction and that art often imitates life and not the other way round. I guess I love this movie so much because there were so many things to learn from it. I don’t know why this movie touched me in this way because there are other good movies out there but it’s an amazing thing to have happened to me. Life is way too short and if the movie could propel me to writing this piece, it is indeed a wonderful thing.

Because the main thing that hit me about this movie is TIME, I will end on this note.
‘May the rest of your life, be the best of your life’.

Written by
Adora Ikwuemesi
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