Tuesday, October 6, 2015

How Do You Find the Words?

As hard as it is to watch, I seem to have a magnetic attraction to the movie, The Guys, starring Sigourney Weaver and Anthony LaPaglia. A haunting story, it is about Nick, a New York fire captain who has been asked to give the eulogies for eight of his men missing since September 11. Grief overwhelms him and he has no words to express his sorrow or to comfort the friends and families of the fallen. He turns to Joan, an editor, who helps him find words and give them structure.

"Tell me about Jimmy," Joan says, or Patrick, or one of the others. Nick shakes his head and gropes for some image, some fragment of a conversation lingering in his mind. Just words and phrases—"mischief," "lives with his parents," "kitchen"—provide hooks for Joan as she gently, persistently coaxes from Nick pictures of the missing men. Her gentle probing and ability to organize his scattered thoughts bring these lost lives into clear focus. The results of their grueling efforts are stunning.

It's as if Nick had never seen his guys fully until this experience. Even his knowledge of his best friend, Patrick, crystalizes through the agonizing process of preparing Patrick's eulogy.

The magnetic power this film has on me is two-fold. First, it is the value of the individual, the uniqueness of each person who has ever lived, that calls me back to this intense dialog. My feelings are like those that Joan expresses as she struggles to come to terms with the sudden and devastating loss of life in New York, her beloved city. "I knew that every time I saw someone on the street I just saw his public shadow. The rest, the important part, lived in layer after layer beyond my view. We have no idea what wonders are hidden in the people around us."

Secondly, Joan's insight, patience, and hunger to breathe life into the memories of Nick's comrades allow her to persistently grapple with this project. There is something so deep, so real that needs to be salvaged from the wreckage of September 11 and Joan is willing to do the hard work to uncover the treasure. As a writer who tells people's stories, I am moved and challenged by Joan's example.

I believe anyone who watches The Guys will be impacted by it. Whether or not you are a writer, I recommend it. People around us have stories to tell and hidden wonders to share. Perhaps they are just waiting for someone like you to help them find the words.


Joan Husby said...

This sounds like an attitude-changing, life-stirring movie. Thanks for making me aware of it.

Mindy Peltier said...

I've never heard of the movie! Will be watching it soon. You have a gifted way of reviewing something without giving it away. I appreciate that so much. Blessings.