Lessons From Benjamin Button

We watched The Curious Case of Benjamin Button the other night.  I was very moved by it, on the edge of my seat despite it’s 2 hour and 45 minute duration.  If you haven’t seen the movie, I should probably say *spoiler alert*.

The main character, Benjamin, is born a decrepit (harsh, but probably the best word for it), little old man.  His mother dies in childbirth and his father, horrified by his appearance, abandons him on the steps of the local Nursing Home.   Queenie, takes him in and raises him amongst the residents, assuming he has a very short time to live.  Over the years he, of course, grows younger instead of older (at least on the outside).  In his old man’s body he strikes up a friendship with a young girl named Daisy.  He and Daisy connect because they are actually nearly the same age.  It is this relationship that is the foundation of the movie.  Their outer appearances place each of them in categories that keep them separate.  It is only when they’ve each faced tremendous loss that they are brought back together again.  These years together are the ones in which their “ages” match.  But the different directions they are traveling loom over them and eventually Benjamin leaves so that Daisy will not have to care for him as a child.  As fate would have it a little boy, in the beginning stages of dementia, ends up back at the Nursing Home and Daisy is called.  She cares for him as he returns to infancy.

Throughout the movie you love Benjamin.  He is different and faces challenges, but has a beautiful soul.  You want him to be accepted and understood.  Then there is Daisy and she is just so very human.  I got angry at her, but probably because I could relate to her in ways.  She loved him but chose to move on without him.  It took a tragedy that ruined her career to bring her home to him.  Once with him, she redeemed herself and unselfishly chose to let him go and eventually take care of him at the end of his life.

The main theme in this movie was Death…but not just death as death, but death as change.  Benjamin grows up in a world filled with death (a nursing home where residents go at the end of their lives), and because of his uniqueness always has the threat of death in the shadows.  He learns early on that nothing is constant, everything is in motion and you can’t stop time.  One of my favorite quotes from the movie that speaks to the theme is from the character who teaches him to play the piano.  She says: “Benjamin, we’re meant to lose the people we love. How else would we know how important they are to us?” Death teaches us to stop taking life for granted.  In the death of a relationship we learn the gifts that were given us by the person we lost.

There was so much more to this movie.  It was thick,  full of layers and life lessons.  It showed the reality of people…that sometimes they are exactly who they say they are and sometimes what we think we know is very far from the truth of them.  It put a spotlight on relationships and the fact that none of them last forever.  It illustrated fate and the great production we’re all a part of, every action and line matters.  It reminded me of the opportunities that life provides and how it is up to each of us to take them or leave them.

I’ll leave you with a few memorable quotes:

“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.” -Benjamin Button

“You can be as mad as a mad dog at the way things went. You could swear, curse the fates, but when it comes to the end, you have to let go.” -Captain Mike

“Your life is defined by its opportunities… even the ones you miss.” -Benjamin Button

“Sometimes we’re on a collision course, and we just don’t know it. Whether it’s by accident or by design, there’s not a thing we can do about it.” -BB

“I promise you, I’ll never lose myself to self-pity again.” -Daisy

“You’ll see little man, plenty of times you be alone. You different like us, it’s gonna be that way. But I tell you a little secret I find out. We know we alone. Fat people, skinny people, tall people, white people… they just as alone as us… but they scared shitless.” -Ngunda Oti

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10 thoughts on “Lessons From Benjamin Button

  1. Jack January 11, 2010 / 12:28 pm

    I tried to watch the movie twice and never could quite get into it. I like the messages, but something about it never quite caught my eye.

    • lesleehorner January 11, 2010 / 12:37 pm

      I can definitely see that too, I think it took all of my hubby’s will-power to stay awake during it. And me, well I fell sleep during “Aliens” the week before…

  2. cjaxon January 11, 2010 / 2:57 pm

    definitely one to add to the Netflix list. I wanted to see it when it came out. Why do stories of impossible love draw us in so deeply?

    • lesleehorner January 11, 2010 / 9:00 pm

      I think all of us are forever seeking the elusive “more” so these kinds of stories give us a picture of what it looks like to gain the impossible. Then we get all these warm fuzzy feelings about the possibility that our “more” will come.

  3. Marjory January 11, 2010 / 7:53 pm

    Leslee, I love the quote you include in your post and this sentence specially : “Death teaches us to stop taking life for granted. In the death of a relationship we learn the gifts that were given us by the person we lost.” I think we don’t talk about death enough in our culture. Death is part of life. Thank you for sharing your thoughts an feelings about this movie. I can’t wait to see it!
    Marjory

  4. Lisa Jacobs June 3, 2010 / 11:44 am

    I love this post because I, too, LOVED this movie. It was chock-full of spiritual insight. I had a dream about it when it came to theaters, but I only saw it after it was available for rent. The movie also brings up Edgar Cayce, and I was studying his philosophies at the time. I’ve never met anyone that it meant so much to before, so, Nice to Meet YOU!

    • lesleehorner June 6, 2010 / 7:49 pm

      It was a great movie! Thanks for stopping by and saying hello!

  5. anonymous April 28, 2011 / 11:28 pm

    I loved this movie and was wondering if someone could explain the quote “You’ll see little man, plenty of times you be alone. You different like us, it’s gonna be that way. But I tell you a little secret I find out. We know we alone. Fat people, skinny people, tall people, white people… they just as alone as us… but they scared shitless.” -Ngunda Oti

    • lesleehorner April 29, 2011 / 8:06 am

      I think it just means that they are so different that they expect to be rejected by other people so they don’t spend time being afraid of rejection. Thanks for reading!

  6. anonymous May 16, 2011 / 10:55 pm

    Yes…perhaps Ngunda Oti is suggesting that deep down inside, each of us knows that we are different from one another, and that this difference brings about a certain and inevitable loneliness within (“We know we alone.”). Oti advises to Benjamin that instead of being “scared shitless” of these differences, we should embrace our individuality and live as ourselves, open, honorable, and authentic. In accepting ourselves, we also liberate ourselves from our dependence upon others, and consequently, are able to feel complete…even when we are alone.

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