Film Friday: Green Book

When classical pianist Dr Don Shirley needs a driver to take him on tour down in the deep south of America he hires working class Italian American Tony Vallelonga. What could possibly go wrong? The two come from very different backgrounds and both have a lot to learn from each other. Tony assumes that Dr Don has spent his life eating fried chicken, but discovers this is not the case, so he takes it on himself to give the good doctor a lesson…

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Their relationship develops into something nearing friendship but this is the 1960s, and a white guy driving a black guy across the southern states is fraught with danger. It’s not long before the two find themselves locked up and in danger of missing the Drs next performance, after Tony punches a cop. The problem is, when Tony sees trouble looming, he tends to lash out with both fists…

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Tony’s wisdom and experience may be very different from that of the cultured Dr Don, but both have plenty to offer one another. Understanding others who are not like ourselves is one of life’s biggest challenges. Often, when we move closer together, ‘inhabiting’ each other’s worlds, we begin to understand. When Jesus told folks to love their neighbours as they loved ‘themselves’, the meaning was this – to love those we meet as if they were already a part of our world, a part of our gang, a part of our group of friends. Treating friends and strangers with the same attitude. That’s not always easy in a world where we can feel intimidated by strangers, and where headlines and hearsay can sometimes hold us captive to doubt and suspicion, and the tendency to put other folks into boxes. I’m grateful for the experience of living in a multi-national community with Christians from many different church backgrounds. This opened my eyes to so many things, and brought me friends from all over the world. It’s often said that we have more in common, than that which divides us. I guess this will be on ongoing challenge for us, to remain open and caring, when we don’t understand, when we see the differences, when we are aware of lots of walls and can’t see many bridges. I love a little phrase in Psalm 103, verse 14, where the songwriter tells us that God understands that we are ‘dust’. Weak, fallible, damaged, messy. God knows that loving each other is tricky. And so we can bring our struggles to him, and tell him honestly about them.

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