Film Friday: The Time of Their Lives

When downtrodden wife and grandmother Priscilla helps ageing movie star Helen onto a bus she finds herself unwittingly heading off on more than a day trip to the seaside. The irrepressible Helen leads them on a wild French adventure, as she heads for the funeral of an old director friend, in search of another stab at movie stardom.

Helen and Priscilla head for the funeral, where the director’s daughter Lucy gives her eulogy from her heart. Her father loved stories, she says, and he loved to tell stories which drew people in and made them feel a part of what was going on. That’s what he did for his daughter, he made her feel a part of things, drew her into the story of his life.

I love stories myself, that’s one of the reasons I love films. I love the twists, and the emotional moments, the laughter, the shocks, the moments of truth revealed, the telling of true adventures and tall tales. And one of the things I love about Jesus is that he was such a brilliant communicator. He loved stories, and knew the power of them. Like Lucy’s father he used them to draw people into something bigger, something more. He told the kind of stories that invited his listeners to come in, to find themselves in the narratives. Stories give us room to manoeuvre too, we don’t have to come with all the answers, instead we can throw our questions into the mix. When Jesus talks about a battle-weary widow, huffing and puffing at a cantankerous old judge, demanding justice, we see ourselves and the doors we knock on, the prayers we whisper and yell, the hopes we carry in our balled-up fists. When we think of the prodigal son, covered in crap, limping because he only has one shoe, and that one missing a heel, we recall those days when we feel far from home, far from our Creator, longing for a hug from a loving parent-figure. Jesus’s stories are loaded with depth and meaning, but they work in so many ways, and they draw us into a fresh reality, a place of hope amongst the pain, light in the darkness, compassion in the rejection.

One of my favourites features a dad and his two boys. ‘Help me out will you?’ The father asks the first son. ‘Sure,’ says the boy, who then proceeds to kick of his shoes, grab a family size pack of Doritos and sit on the sofa all day. The second lad flatly refuses to do anything for his old man, but then rethinks, pulls on his mud-stained work clothes, and wanders along to see if there’s anything useful he can do. Most of the time I am the first boy, saying all the right things, but reluctant to get dirt under my finger nails. But very occasionally, when there’s an J in the month maybe, I find myself a little like the second boy, changing my mind and sluggishly forcing myself to pull on my work clothes. (Matthew 21 vv 28-31)

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