Film Friday: Little Women

Louisa May Alcott’s classic tale of family, sisterhood, love and creativity hits the big screen once more. For the fifth time since 1918. Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy March crash into our lives again with their adventures, battles, dreams and stories.

Amy loves art, Jo writing, Beth music and Meg acting. But this is a time too when they also need a good husband (ideally a rich one, according to their aunt March). They are not a wealthy family and to have a decent future it’s best to marry well. They are a caring family though, in spite of their various disagreements and falling out. Pulling together in times of trouble, need and illness.

It’s a story that I have a particular soft spot for, because I can remember seeing it on TV as a boy, possibly the 1933 version, and watching Jo bundle up her book to send off to the publisher and envying that, thinking what a wonderful thing it would be to write a book and send it off.

There is a moment when Jo confesses to her mother that she does not want to be defined merely by finding a man to love, that she and her sisters have gifts and strengths of their own to share and develop. She is a fighter, a woman of independent spirit. And yet, she says, she feels so lonely at times. Her struggles remind me of those in La La Land, a very different film, yet one about the tension between success and being loved for who we are. One of the great messages of the Christian faith is that we are known and loved and understood by our God. Jesus lived this out in his relationships, the writer of Psalm 139 explored this theme in great detail, and the letter writer John hammered it home time and again in his first letter. It is perhaps the question at the heart of our lives that most defines and drives us. If we can, from time to time, work and live and care from a place of security, then this helps us when we feel the loneliness that Jo describes, when we feel the insecurity that plagues us all, and when we want to prove ourselves to the detriment of others. We all do these things because we are all human in a broken world.

We all struggle with loneliness, it’s said to be an epidemic. Jesus of course experienced plenty of loneliness, in his life, work, vocation, family, dying, and possibly even in his resurrection (after all, how could anyone else really identify with or relate to this extraordinary experience). And so he understands our loneliness. Oddly I seem to feel most lonely in a crowd, unable to connect with others and feel a part of things. Which is why the biblical message is so important and so helpful to return to and reread. Again and again. See how much God loves us, we are his children. John writes. You understand me all the time, Psalm 139 assures us. One thing that can encourage us too, we do not have to be sorted or fixed or heroes to offer kindness to others. As the saying goes, we can all be one beggar showing another where to find food.

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