Posts Tagged ‘Sandra Bullock’

Yeah I know, I’m a little late.  But this movie did win a Golden Globe, so hopefully someone will find it relevant.  As far as the plot goes, I think the trailer gives a sufficient background, so I won’t tire anyone by delving into it.

Gravity_Fetal_PositionMy focus is limited to Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), the medical engineer on her first space mission.  The almost-decisive moment in the film, for me, comes when she arrives at the abandoned Russian space station.  As soon as she reaches the safety of the station, she strips off her heavy space gear, curls up into a fetal position, and is momentarily at peace.

FreudSigmund Freud famously wrote about what he perceived to be the two basic human drives: Eros and Thanatos — the life-instinct and the death-instinct, respectively.

These drives, as Freud intended them to be understood, are not as clearly defined as they might seem.  Of the two, Thanatos is the drive closer to the fetal image.  It is the drive toward self-preservation, insulation, withdrawal, comfort…the cozy darkness of the womb.

Eros can be more accurately represented by a flower opening up to sunlight.  It is the drive toward opening oneself up, toward risk, toward adventure, toward expanding one’s horizons.

movies-gravity-sandra-bullock_1Stone’s journey into space strikes me as a form of Thanatos.  A short way into the film, we learn that she had a very young daughter who died.  She spent the rest of her time on earth burying herself in her work, and then outside of work she would just drive around in her car without any particular aim.  My assumption is that the space mission is the same “driving” she’s been doing since her daughter died, just taken all the way “out there.”

I’ve never been to outer space, but it does appear to have a certain womb-like quality with its darkness, silence, and solitude.  It’s the perfect place for someone to go if s/he is broken by grief and wants to get away from everything, including his/her own pain.

Tragedy, pain and trial can lead to various forms of Thanatos, including those that are more self-destructive.  But these can also be transformational and redemptive.  They can break us out of the false security of the ego, open us up to commiseration with others, and instill in us a sense of our dependence on a Higher Power.

In other words, we can respond to suffering Erotically (in the life-drive sense).  The greatest form of Eros, in my view, is prayer.  Far from curling up into a ball, we open ourselves up to the God who wants to speak to us when we pray.  But as with the flower opening itself up to the sun, this involves a certain self-forgetfulness and the acceptance of vulnerability.  And yet, that is where we find true and abiding peace.

Gravity_PrayerOur protagonist seems to gain a sense of this as she fights for her life 372 miles above the earth.  The life instinct wells up in her, and just when her survival seems to have become impossible, she turns to prayer — lamenting, at one point, that no one ever taught her how to pray.


In the end, Stone makes it back to earth in a capsule from an abandoned Chinese space station.  The shuttle lands in a lake; Stone climbs out of the shuttle, swims to shore, emerges from the water onto dry land, kisses the ground, and utters these words as a breath of fresh air: “Thank you.”

Gravity_GratitudeIt occurred to me that herein lies the key both to prayer and to peace in adversity: Gratitude.  As the toddler gains from his mother’s fundamental, assuring presence the confidence he needs to explore his environment, so the soul needs to learn to rest in God’s loving care and sustenance in order to venture out, boldly and freely, into the beautiful and unpredictable ocean of the Divine Life.

On that note, I present to you, in conclusion, the greatest act of prayer the world has ever seen:

Christ Crucified by VelazquezPhotos of Freud and Christ crucified obtained from Wikipedia; all other images obtained through a Google image search

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Here are my selections, in no particular order:

1. Michaela Odone (Susan Sarandon), “Lorenzo’s Oil”


Susan Sarandon delivers a formidable and heartbreaking performance as the “mother tiger” Michaela Odone in the 1992 film “Lorenzo’s Oil,” which chronicles the intense dedication of two parents to finding a cure for their seven-year-old son Lorenzo’s incurable disease.  Based on a true story.

2. Angela McCourt (Emily Watson), “Angela’s Ashes”


Also based on a true story, “Angela’s Ashes” gives viewers a privileged glimpse into the motherhood of Angela McCourt, who stood by her four children in the midst of poverty-stricken Ireland.  Enduring the undignified living conditions of Limerick, the absence of an alcoholic husband, the memory of the loss of three children, depression, and the unwanted advances of a cruel cousin (which she risks just to be able to put a roof over her children’s heads), Angela can surely be a source of strength for all current and aspiring mothers.

3. Kate McCallister (Catherine O’Hara), “Home Alone”

Home Alone Redemption

Had to mention this one — it’s one of my all-time favorites (if you’re interested, here is a link to my two-part post on the film: http://www.intothedance.wordpress.com/2012/12/27/home-alone-redux-part-one-of-two/).  What says love more than a mother flying across international waters and all around the U.S. by herself, going nearly 60 hours without any sleep, in order to be at the side of her son?  Kate McCallister did just that, and surely any mother can relate.

4. Abigail Adams (Laura Linney), “John Adams”

laura linneyAbigail Adams was a strong woman, for sure.  In the HBO miniseries “John Adams,” Laura Linney shows us how she gave herself wholeheartedly to her children during the hard years of the American Revolution and beyond, even while her husband was gone for years at a time (both in America and abroad).

5. Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock), “The Blind Side”

sandra bullock

With two children of her own and a successful career, Leigh Anne Tuohy takes in a homeless African-American teen with a troubled past and struggles to provide him with every opportunity to succeed.  That teen’s name is Michael Oher.

Oher, by the way, is currently the offensive tackle for the Baltimore Ravens.  Yes, behind every great man is a great mother.

It just occurred to me that of the five films I have mentioned, four of them are based on true stories.  What does that tell us about the strength and dignity of motherhood?

Anyway, these are my top five picks for movies featuring strong moms.  Would anyone care to share any others?

Top image from Wikipedia; remaining images obtained through a Google image search

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