Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Change Your Assumptions, Change Your Reality: Two Movies

I recently watched two outstanding movies that reminded me once again how powerfully our assumptions shape our perception of the world, thus impacting our reactions and our experiences.

In Elegy (2008) charismatic professor and author David Kepesh (played brilliantly by Ben Kinglsey) has lived a life of “emancipated manhood” for decades. Until, that is, he meets and falls in love with one of his students, beautiful and intelligent Consuela Castillo (Penelope Cruz).

Despite the fact that Consuela demonstrates repeatedly how much she cares about him, David is convinced that the 30+ age difference between them represents an insurmountable chasm. He’s certain that one day she will realize she’s made a mistake and break off with him for a younger man.

So instead of believing her and enjoying their relationship, David agonizes about what she’s doing when they aren’t together. He becomes jealous, insecure and obsessive. Since he’s so sure in his own mind about the ultimate outcome of the relationship, he engages in sabotaging behavior. The final blow comes when he doesn’t show up as promised for Consuela’s graduation party and then lies to her about why he didn’t attend.

When Consuela re-enters his life two years later, David is a changed man. Working through the grief from their failed relationship and the death of his best friend, he’s matured. He’s willing to look deeply at what’s in front of him and embrace it fully, without the erroneous assumptions that destroyed their relationship earlier.

The Music Never Stopped (2011) revolves around a father-son relationship that went bad 20 years earlier. Estranged all those years, the parents become involved in their son Gabriel Sawyer’s (Lou Taylor Pucci) life again after a tumor destroys parts of his brain.

Through a music therapist (Julia Ormond), they discover that Gabriel can recall past incidents with incredible detail when a song associated with that experience is played. At first the father Henry Sawyer (J.K. Simmons) is delighted to see his response. But when Gabriel describes the events that led him to run away from home, Henry becomes angry and claims, “That’s not how it happened.” Only after his wife (Cara Seymour) affirms Gabriel’s version and later confronts Henry about his assumptions and attitudes does the father look within to choose a different way to connect with Gabriel.

The transformations that take place in the characters and in their relationships with each other are believable and moving.

With emphasis on action and special effects today, very few films take time to fully develop the main characters. If you enjoy movies with flawed individuals who undergo credible awakenings and changes, these two films deliver. The acting and storylines are truly memorable, and the lessons will stay with you long after the credits roll by.

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