Last night I saw the highly acclaimed movie, A Star is Born. I had heard great things about the movie, and the acting and story did not disappoint. It was a powerful portrayal of the relationship between the two main characters, rotating around the themes of love, hope, brokenness, and suffering. Without spoiling the ending, I can tell you what you probably already know. The movie is gut-wrenchingly sad. It’s a tragedy. When the credits finally rolled in our small town theatre there was a palpable silence punctuated only by tear fuelled sniffles spread across the room. I felt it too.
As my brother-in-law and I walked home I mused about the question I came away with. “Why do we as human beings want to see sad movies?” Isn’t reality sad enough? What is it that draws us to this experience of something on the screen that we would avoid at all costs in our real lives? It seems counter-intuitive. In a world of tragedy why are we drawn to more? Why not seek out movies and literature filled with hope and happy endings? These questions rolled around my head as I feel asleep last night and were still with me when I woke this morning. Maybe the sleep of the night brought some clarity, I’m not sure, but I’m willing to venture a theory as to why we are drawn to things that make us cry.
I think there is, somewhere deep inside of all of us, a deep sadness. It’s a feeling like grief but deeper and more pervasive. It’s as if we feel like we’ve lost something but can’t put our finger on what that is. This is a part of us, but one we don’t understand and like to keep under wraps. So why expose ourselves to stories that stir that? It gives us a safe way to feel something deep inside of us, yet do it as a bystander. We can feel these deep emotions, yet keep them distant because it’s a fiction story that ends once we leave the theatre. It makes us feel more alive because it touches us in deep, unexplainable ways, but frees us to go for coffee with our friends afterward with no residue of the emotional turmoil.
We have two choices here. We can continue on as we are, taking these small doses of sadness, seeking to immunize ourselves against the powerful darkness that lies deep inside us, or we can begin to peel back the layers and attempt to see why we are drawn to these painful stories. It probably won’t surprise you, but I have a theory here as well.
This sadness within us points to something profound. We all have a sense that something has gone wrong. That the world was not meant to be as it is. We feel it at the death of a friend or family member, we feel it when we see the World Vision ads on TV, we feel it when no matter how hard we try we seem to keep repeating the same mistakes in some areas of our lives. We desperately want to be better, we want our world to be better, but day after day the consistent failure of the world to live up to what we hope for sinks into this deep sadness. We’d love to dismiss it, to ignore it, to forget it, but it follows us wherever we go. Movies like the one I saw last night allow us to connect with something we know to be real, but to keep the overwhelming nature of it at bay.
Here’s the crux of what I am trying to say. I believe something has gone wrong. That humanity, despite all it’s beauty and diversity, is broken. If that was all I believed I’m not sure how I could get up in the morning. I also believe that this longing for more is because there actually is more.
I am convinced that the story of Jesus tells us that we are broken, but also that we are deeply loved. That just as He died and came to life, His life can come to these deep dead places in our heart. That this healing and moving toward a renewed self is the DNA of who we really are, and the whole reason for our existence. There is a way to penetrate that deep sadness we carry with a hope for something renewed, glorious, and transformative.
Movies like “A Star is Born” have a role to play. They force us to feel, to look deeper, to wonder why. If all you have when you leave the theatre is an emotional experience eventually it just makes you want to give up. But what keeps me moving forward is that these stories can be the beginning of a different story for each of our lives. I pray that your experience of this sadness leads you to seek hope.