My husband and I watched Pixar’s Up last weekend. I had no idea the kinds of feelings watching it would evoke and the teary mess the montage in the first half of the film would leave me in. That’s what I love most about movies. You sit down to watch a film without expectation and the experience of watching it is more overwhelming than you ever imagined it would be because it made you feel so deeply. Up was like for me. Well, at least the first quarter of the movie was anyway. The second half of the movie changed tone and direction and became a little silly, but I suppose the writers wanted to lighten the tone for the youngsters after a very tear-jerking opening section.
Up is storytelling at its best. What the filmmakers are able to achieve in the first 20 minutes of the movie is remarkable. We meet Carl Frederickson as a young boy who dreams of becoming an explorer. Carl’s a shy, quiet kid who befriends his complete opposite – a sassy, outgoing young girl named Ellie. They grow up as friends through adolescence and adulthood and eventually marry and share their lives together, all the while dreaming of one day living at a place called Paradise Falls.
Through an absolutely beautiful and moving montage sequence, we see their lives unfold and witness every moment of joy – when they purchase a new home, and sorrow – when they learn that they cannot have children. Sadly, Carl becomes a widower before he and Ellie can take the trip they’ve always dreamed of taking and Carl is left with only his lovely little house full of memories. While witnessing their experiences through youth and old age, I smiled, was deeply touched and felt moved, and then I had a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. The filmmakers tell us the story of Carl and Ellie in a wordless 20 minutes of film and that small bit of narrative is about as powerful an exposition as any I’ve ever seen in film.
Carl and Ellie dream together, face tragedy and happily grow old side by side, and though they never make it to Paradise Falls during Ellie’s lifetime, we see in one scene towards the end as Carl looks through the photo’s of their married life in Ellie’s scrapbook, that the true adventure had been their lives together. In a final note at the back of her scrapbook, Ellie thanks Carl for the “adventure.” And I lost it all over again.
Up made me laugh; it made me cry, and it made me thankful; thankful for my husband, Andrew, and for our wonderful adventure thus far!