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Living an unfinished life

“Griff said you had a dream about flying,” Einar says.

“Yeah. I got so high I could see where the blue turns to black. From up there, you could see all there is. And it looked like,” Mitch pauses, “there was a reason for everything.”

This exchange is from An Unfinished Life (2005), a film starring Robert Redford (Einar), Morgan Freeman (Mitch) and Jennifer Lopez (as Jean, daughter-in-law to Einar). Einar's son (and Jean’s husband) died 11 years before the film begins, a death from which neither Einar nor Jean have recovered. Each carries deep wounds that fester—Einar’s with bitterness and Jean’s with guilt—that have deeply affected the lives they’ve lived since that death as well as the lives of those around them. Mitch is practically Einar’s only friend left—and he’s a man of great strength, compassion and wisdom who’s recovering from his own wounds from a near-fatal encounter with a bear. Jean’s struggles have left her and her 11-year-old daughter (Griff, who's also Einar’s granddaughter) fleeing a world of domestic abuse.

While critics seem to find the film somewhat sentimental and predictable, I found the film a moving story of the healing of people’s wounded-ness and—as the above exchange between Einar and Mitch reflects—an affirmation of life in spite of the horrible things that can happen to us. And I appreciate a story like that because it reminds me that much of how we approach and operate in life is a matter of perspective.

Too often, mine is focused too low to the ground, where making sense of things from there may work for awhile but inevitably something shatters whatever sense of control or power I worked out for myself. But gazing from higher up—up where “blue turns to black”—things look different. Those glimpses are fewer than I desire, but somewhere along the way I began taking steps towards trusting those moments and the One who gives them to me. That didn’t happen overnight, but over years of working through it and walking with Jesus, who somehow continues to reveal and prove himself in spite of my doubts, fears and questions. After all that walking, I've yet to arrive, but I'm learning to live with that, too. To borrow a turn of phrase, it isn't a finished life, but it's a good life.

And this is a film that reminds me of all this—sentimental and formulaic as it may be.

Some additional thoughts to add: I've been thinking about this film some more, how much I liked it and why. In addition to the above, the friendship between Mitch and Einar is wonderfully portrayed. There's a plethora of films focusing on friendship between women, and this one should be right up there for ones showing the beauty of male friendships. (There's a priceless scene with Griff, Mitch and Einar regarding the nature of Mitch and Einar's relationship which still makes me smile just thinking about it.)

Also, the healing that takes place within and between the characters has a lot to do with the power of love, confrontation, confession, forgiveness and decisions to turn-around and go another direction (ie, repentance)--all themes that are strongly biblical and true. Healing can't take place without these things and it is a wonderful affirmation to see them take place in this story.

Note: if sentimental films are your thing, check out the trailer here. The film is rated PG-13 for scenes of domestic violence and some language.

(Images: copyrighted by Miramax)