If there is one thought that both films Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman have in common, it’s surely this – that fame and money and popularity cannot provide a deep sense of identity and value.
There is a moment early in this film when every member of Reg Dwight’s family sings about wanting to be loved. They all seem to be feeling that lack in their lives. Young Reg soon shows an awful lot of promise when it comes to thumping a keyboard. He gains a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music and then gets swept up in rock’n’roll fever, playing in the local pub as a young quiffed teenager. When he goes looking to be signed at a record company he is handed a file of song words by an unknown writer called Bernie Taupin. And it’s not long before the two begin a lifelong collaboration – Reg, now Elton, writing the music to go with Bernie’s lyrics. The company send Elton to America, to play the famous Troubadour club and, in spite of last minute nerves, Elton rises to the challenge and bangs out Crocodile Rock to an entranced audience. Fame and fortune scoop him up.
And yet the longing goes on. To be affirmed. To be known and cared for. To be loved. In the movie both Elton’s parents seem to miss this need. Perhaps because they too are not sure what it means to be know what it is to be cherished and valued. It is perhaps something of a cliché to say that when we don’t feel loved we go looking in all the wrong places. But that is exactly what happens here. Elton indulges in shopping, booze, sex, drugs and food – all in an attempt to satisfy that deep longing within to be loved and affirmed.
There is a little verse in the Bible, at the start of chapter 3 of a letter from a guy called John, which assures us of this: ‘See how much the father has loved us, his love is so great that we are called his children. And so we are.’ The father referred to here is no ordinary dad. This is a parent who is extraordinarily creative, kind, patient, slow to become angry, and topped full of extravagant love. Love for us. Love that can pick us up when we crash. Love that comes looking for us when yet again we have gone looking in all the wrong places. Love that is not afraid of the dark and the dirt. Love that is not afraid to die for us. Love that has given everything for us, that knows us and understands us in a way that no one else does. Love that is costly and priceless. The love of the father. The love of our God. Ultimately this life can let us down. It ambushes us. Disappoints us. Pulls the rug. We all know that. But the promise that a carpenter from Nazareth demonstrates is that there is a God who has entered into the mess and the mire, and the backstabbing and broken dreams. One who wants us to discover, and to keep on discovering, a life-affirming, radical, deeply satisfying kind of love.