If you’re looking at this website, you probably love films. If you’re like me, then you deeply love them. They affect you in a way no other art does. You can get emotional just thinking about moments from a movie. Case in point, I was re-watching Cinema Paradiso. It is one of the great films about the love of film. It’s a film that reminds us that going out to the movies is a communal experience. It can never be replaced by video on demand. Our emotions are intertwined in the memories of seeing a film. In its final scene, all these feelings about life and cinema came rushing over not only the main character but me as well. And what did I do? I cried like a God damn baby. If you haven’t seen the montage that ends this masterful film, stop reading, find yourself a copy, and proudly join me in a good cry. Even thinking about the nostalgic Ennio Morricone score is making me misty eyed.
Unfortunately for me, I don’t currently make a living off reviewing films and podcasting. This is something I hope to rectify in the near future. For now I have a soul crushing day job to help pay the bills. At this job, I sit in a room full of men and we watch television. It’s called master control and our job is to make sure the signal is properly going out over the airwaves. We watch mostly awful reality programming but occasionally they play movies.
Not too long ago we watched Titanic. As the ship was going down we all spoke of the first time we saw this landmark film. After all, like it or not, it was one of the cinematic events of our lifetime. One co-worker said that the film brought a tear to his eye. Immediately the entire group pounced on him. They mocked this poor guy as if crying at a film was not manly. These people claimed to not cry at Titanic or any film for that matter. I of course spoke up and declared that I have cried at too many movies to count. I was proud of every tear shed from Field of Dreams to Once to Wall-E because each of them signified an emotional connection I had with a work of art.
The boys at work didn’t mock me because deep down, they knew I was right. A few admitted to shedding a tear or two at sports films. The Champ or Rudy. Somewhere along the line they decided it wasn’t “gay” to cry at something sports related. This of course outraged me. At my day job, I’m clearly surrounded by robots. Cold, emotionless robots. Even their language annoyed me. “Shed a tear.” “Misty eyed.” Never admitting to out and out bawling over a film like I do with Cinema Paradiso. The idea of these “men” not crying (or worse being afraid to crying) made me feel sorry for them. When I asked how this was possible one said “it’s not real so why would I get emotional over it?” Clearly they don’t allow art to overtake them. They’re too busy in their macho view of movie going to let emotion seep in. Crying at a film is no different than laughing or screaming. And yet crying comes with a stigma. You know who doesn’t worry about this stigma? Cinephiles! These film geeks are the real manly men. And unlike the people I work with, I spend most of my free time with them.
As I’ve gotten older I realize I cry at more and more films. It makes sense. I’ve learned more about life. I understand struggle and heartbreak. I have a sense of nostalgia, an actual past to look back on fondly or regretfully. Thus seeing those emotions portrayed on screen moves me. Yes, it’s up to us cinephiles to make the rest of these people understand it’s OK to cry. Its fine that you break down at least three or four times during Up. Just admit it. Step out of the tear filled closet and into the streets! It’s up to us to make tears as acceptable as laughter.
To that end I decided to ask some of my friends what films make them cry and why. It was no surprise to see that Pixar has cornered the market on tears. Brave made my friend Carrick cry for its portrayal of a mother/daughter relationship. Toy Story 3 makes a lot of people cry because it reminds us all of when we had to put away our toys. Kid’s films in general seem to bring on the tears. Is it because of how pure of heart they are in our cynical world? Both Carrick and I admit to weeping at Babe. After everything that pig went through…how could you not?
Nostalgia doesn’t have to be in the theme to produce tears. Sometimes it’s the nostalgia you bring to the film itself. My friend Fox cries like a baby whenever he watches the original Superman. He doesn’t really know why, but I have an idea. Here is a film and character he has loved since being a young boy. For Fox, Superman is everything good and honest not only in this world but in film. It’s an image and emotion that connected with him at an early age. When he watches Superman fly past the camera, those feelings all come flooding back.
When pressed for the reason as to why a film makes you cry, it’s not easy to answer. There are too many intangibles. Many reasons might be subconscious. Lorenzo told me that films portraying acts of kindness always get to him. To that, he admitted to not only crying at It’s A Wonderful Life but also Home Alone. Death is a big one too. It’s hard to watch someone you love die and let’s face it, the feelings you develop for a character over two hours are love. But triumph in the face of adversity is equally big. One of the biggest crying experiences was when I went to see Precious. Not from me (although I did cry) but from my friend Ale. As the film was ending I heard her tears building. Then as the credits rolled and the message “dedicated to precious girls everywhere” filled the screen, she lost it. Tears flooded from her eyes. Her face was soaked. She could barely speak. “We… think we have it hard… and then you see someone… someone like her…” Five minutes later as we strolled through the lobby she was still bawling. People looked at me. Their eyes said “what did you do to this girl?” But I didn’t care. I was happy to see someone so moved.
The film that came up more than any other was The Shawshank Redemption. Man or woman, young or old, that film gets to everyone. I’ve never actually met a person who didn’t like it. Most cry as Red walks along that beach, seeing if the Pacific is as blue as in his dreams. Although it’s a prison film it’s themes are something we can all relate to. Rallying against an unjust system, not giving up hope and most of all friendship. As my friend Sean said: “REAL MEN CRY AT THE END OF THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION!”