REVIEW: Wolfwalkers

Director Tomm Moore knows the feeling of being otherized. “When I was a little kid, I was in a playground and I was playing with this little kid and his brother came over and asked if I was catholic or protestant and that’s how I found out I was catholic and how I found out that there was a problem with being one or the other.” Moore and his team have recently been nominated for their third Academy Award for Wolfwalkers, a delightful, animated feature steeped in Irish folklore and carrying themes that never seem to get less relevant. At its core, Wolfwalkers is about our connection to our past and to nature, but it is also a signpost for us all as we seek to tear down the many divisions in our society.

“I hate to say it, but I grew up in the 80’s and the tension going back to the English colonization was really present and I thought we moved past it but even today riots have started again. I feel like we need to talk about this,” says Moore as his film that premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September of 2020, seems to be speaking even louder so many months later. Britain’s ongoing exit from the EU and the stress of a global pandemic have brought new unrest stemming from decades old divisions in Northern Ireland. Here comes Wolfwalkers, a story about a little English girl, Robyn, living in a British settlement in Ireland befriending a little Irish girl, Mebh, who lives in the woods and may have supernatural wolf powers.


Robyn lives with her father in a puritan village that she very desperately wants to escape from. She would love nothing more than to run through the woods hunting with her father, but, in his misguided attempts to keep her safe, she is, instead, relegated to the palace kitchen. Naturally, Robyn follows her father anyway and winds up on an adventure alongside the wild-haired Mebh and her wolfpack. Mebh isn’t what Robyn is used to. At first, she’s even more off putting than the wolves. Once Robyn has a chance to see the world through Mebh’s eyes, though, her awareness, her sense of self, and their friendship begins to grow. Moore says of what he hopes to convey in the film, “I think about little girls that can see this story playing out and see that they have some say in their voice because it’s still a bit of challenge I think for young women to go against the grain of what society says.”

There just aren’t that many stories focused primarily on female friendship and empowerment, but what is so encouraging about Wolfwalkers, is that it allows Robyn and Mebh to make mistakes as they navigate a world that says they shouldn’t be friends. This is especially true as Robyn tries to bring her dad along on her journey of enlightenment only to find new pressure and stress to conform and stay safe. The process of reconciling divisions in our world is incredibly messy. We see that all around as it often feels like we are taking one step forward and five or six steps back. As we finally have a police officer on trial for the murder of George Floyd, a few blocks away history repeats itself. As history is achieved with America electing a female Vice-President, the capital is stormed with violence and insurrection. As Robyn tries to embrace her wild side and help Mebh out, she ends up reflecting her own oppression onto Mebh.

Wolfwalkers 2

It is a sophisticated film that makes these complicated themes very palatable for children. Afterall, it is when we’re young that we first start recognizing our differences. Just as Moore did on that playground as a kid, and as he describes when he first moved from Northern to Southern Ireland. “So when I came down I had to do a lot of adapting to try and fit in. I had to try and change my accent on purpose, play down how my parents would take me to mass every day, a lot of that stuff that wasn’t seen as ‘cool’ or ‘normal’ amongst kids in my school.” Moore and his filmmaking team hope to inspire our current younger generations to imagine something different. He says, “That’s who it’s for, really, that generation. Cause they’re the ones that have to deal with all the division that we have and maybe if they can see themselves in these characters, they can imagine a less divided way of relating to each other.”

The film also imagines a world where the safety of women is placed more firmly in their own hands, something that is rarely a given in our world plagued by continued oppression of and violence against women. Complete human flourishing is often hard to come by in our fallen world. Wolfwalkers allows us, through folklore and friendship, the opportunity to have a holy imagination and look towards something better. Can you envision a world where all women are allowed to run free into whatever adventure they choose without fear? Hopefully it won’t be long before that world is a lot less fictional and with only slightly fewer magical wolves.

Wolfwalkers is currently streaming on AppleTV+

“Loving” – Quietly Changing the World

“I’m pregnant.”

A young woman nervously shifts after blurting out this news, waiting for her boyfriend to respond.  To her relief, he’s happy and excited. He loves her and is committed to her and to their child. Soon afterwards he proposes and they sneak off for a simple wedding. Sounds pretty unremarkable. This young couple who are poor and living in the same rural community have fallen in love and want to build a life together. Except that it’s 1958 in Virginia and he’s white and she’s black, and it’s illegal for them to marry.

Thus begins the film “Loving” which tells the true story of Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving, an interracial couple who were behind the Supreme Court case to legalize interracial marriage. Their struggle to live in their home state as a married couple and family became a turning point court case during the Civil Rights Movement. A landmark ruling that broke down racial barriers and changed our country forever.

Loving porch.jpg

The film quietly asks a very powerful question, “What kind of people change the world?” On the surface, the Lovings are not a splashy and charismatic couple. The film’s director Jeff Nichols pointedly depicts their deep normalcy and simple desire to be a healthy family. Both Mildred and Richard are poor and not college educated. They seemed to be kind and friendly people, but they largely kept to themselves and were by no means on a crusade of epic proportions. Their path to world-changing was marked by small decisions based on what was in front of them at the time.

The first decision was to marry and honor their relationship and child with fidelity and love. Then when they were forced to leave the state or be jailed, they moved to DC and did the best they could to build a home for their growing family. But they missed their relatives and the peace of the country, and wanted their children to be in a safer environment closer to family. So when Mildred is presented with the suggestion to write to the Attorney General, Bobby Kennedy, she takes a chance to ask for help. From there it was small steps of meeting with a lawyer, continuing to communicate with him about their case, being photographed for Life Magazine, and hoping that things could be better. We see Mildred in particular gain a growing sense that their case could benefit many other people and she exudes a quiet optimism that change could be possible. On the day that their case is heard before the Supreme Court, the Lovings weren’t in attendance. The day in court is a very minor part of the film, Nichols choosing instead to focus on the family at home going about their normal lives together (but still nervously waiting for the phone to ring.) Because of their persistence to believe the life they wanted together was possible, 9 years and 3 children after they first married they are able to see an outcome that changed their lives and opportunities for countless other couples since.


Who comes to mind when you think of people that changed the world? Is it famous people in history books? People that have biographies and Broadway musicals written about them? For most of us, we don’t immediately think of the ordinary people around us in our daily lives, and we probably don’t think of ourselves. But world-changing doesn’t happen all at once when we decide it should, it happens gradually when people begin taking small steps to do what they can in their realm of influence. Richard and Mildred didn’t decide in 1958 that they wanted to catalyze a Supreme Court case and force the government’s hand to change federal legislation. They decided that they wanted to do right by each other in their immediate situation, and then went from there.

I once heard a speaker at the Jubilee Conference talk about Daniel in the Bible and the long road of faithfulness over our lifetimes. Daniel is known for facing off with lions and having God save him when he was thrown into a den of the ferocious beasts. What we don’t often think about is that Daniel was in his 80s when that happened. He’s known for a spectacular event that every Sunday school kid has heard, but we don’t write songs about all the normal years he spent in Babylon quietly honoring God every day with the work and opportunities that were before him. Scripture is filled with other ordinary people who were under-qualified and unremarkable and yet who were invited to join God in doing spectacular things.


You may or may not have to chance to do something that changes history in a way that other people will notice and remember, but maybe being extraordinary isn’t the point. Life is full of unexpected twists and turns, unforeseen challenges and gifts. Each day is an opportunity to honor God in our decisions and relationships. Only God knows where it might go from there.

“God must love ordinary people, He made so many of them.”

– Abraham Lincoln

We all look different in “Moonlight”

“Running around, fishing in a boat of light. In moonlight, black boys look blue. You’re blue. That’s what I’m gonna call you: ‘Blue’.”

What is the best setting to tell a scary story? I’m imagining that you visualize a dark, moonlit night with your friends surrounding a campfire. The low light of the fire casts deep, cavernous shadows around your eyes. Maybe to enhance the effect you’ll hold a flashlight just below your chin.


Light has a funny way of influencing our perception. It’s interesting that often when we talk about our mistakes or successes we employ a metaphor of a positive or negative light being cast. Let me cast some light on the story of Moonlight, a terrific movie out now directed by Barry Jenkins based on the play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarell Alvin McCraney. The film is about Chiron, a boy growing up in an impoverished project in Miami. His mother is an addict. His father is absent and his closest father figure is a local drug dealer. He also struggles with his sexuality. Take a minute and ask yourself where this story is going?


Was it easy to write Chiron’s story for him? This is a light that we have seen shed before and Moonlight features many elements you might expect, but the beauty of the film lies in the unexpected, both for the audience as well as Chiron. The movie is divided into three acts providing snapshots of pivotal seasons in Chiron’s life that established his identity.

In each of the three acts, Chiron, who’s normal demeanor is stoic and silent, guarded against a world that has hurt him again and again, lets that guard down. He exposes himself to the love, support, and judgement of another. For fans of the Bible, this act is often translated to the sharpening of iron, right? We expose ourselves to have our rough edges smoothed out, to sharpen our character.


This Biblical metaphor is intimidating to me for one reason, we are the iron. We all have the responsibility to sharpen and we are all vulnerable to the sharpening. My ability to sharpen comes with my bias, my emotions, and my selfish motivations that are part of being human. Which then begs the question, what bias, emotions, and motivations am I vulnerable to being sharpened by?

When you imagined how Chiron’s story would play out, what identity or narrative did you project on him? We often homogenize the people around us, fitting them into assimilated boxes of our cultural identity to fit roles that make us feel comfortable. Moonlight is, perhaps, equally about the dangers of forcing people’s identities into boxes as it is about the hope that comes when we are free to be defined by something that transcends stereotype.


Chiron sits at the dinner table with Juan, his drug-dealing father figure. He asks him about a derogatory term he has heard which Juan explains is a word used to “make gay people feel bad.” Chiron then wonders if that term defines him. In this moment, Chiron is vulnerable to sharpening, wanting Juan, who has shown him compassion and love, to cast a light on him. Juan sets Chiron free by saying that he doesn’t need to have his whole identity figured out yet.

From there, Moonlight takes many turns you might not be prepared for…some expectedly tragic, some surprisingly uplifting, some powerfully universal. Fair warning this film will not be for everyone and an inspection of the film’s content rating will help frame your viewing. That said, the narrative of Chiron’s life features a complexity seldom seen in modern cinema. It is familiar, but unique. It doesn’t fit in a neat and tidy box.


None of the specific instances, good or bad, define Chiron’s whole life. Each act is distinct. There is great freedom and hope in that. This is a freedom I am given by Christ. There have been many moments in my life that shined a negative light on me…but that light hasn’t defined my whole identity. There have also been moments that cast a positive light, that have brought me love and respect. That isn’t the full story either.

What if you were always seen in the perfect light? What would that change about the way you define yourself and make decisions? This is the beauty of the Gospel. Jesus not only took the punishment for our worst moments, he gave us the reward for his best so that God will always look upon us under a perfect, loving light. A light that will never be overcome by darkness.

While you watch:

What moments in the film surprised you? Why do you think that is?

What would you have told a young Chiron at the dinner table if he was asking you the questions he asks Juan?

When in the film does Chiron let others to define him? What is the result?

Heather’s Top 10 Films of 2015

In compiling my list I observed that this year I have most gravitated to films that generated creative and original content. My priorities were an interesting composition and a message that contributes to the cultural conversation in helpful and provocative ways.

1. The Big ShortThis is my #1 pick because I think it is the most creative film of the year and unpacks a complex topic in an extremely engaging way. I loved the characters and I went with them on the emotional rollercoaster that was the financial boom and crisis. The device of using pop culture icons to explain the most confusing elements was a brilliant way to raise a mirror up to American culture and reveal what holds our attention most often.


2. Creed – A close contender for #1, beautifully written, acted, and directed. Coogler expertly paid homage to the original Rocky while taking the franchise in a fresh direction that was poignant and inspiring. I particularly appreciated the way women were portrayed in the film which was respectful and honoring.

3. Spotlight – Well made, terrific performances, handled a very difficult topic with sensitivity as well as scrutiny. It made me thankful for Pope Francis and the rebuilding of shattered communities.

The Walk

4. The Walk – I LOVE this story, and the film comes at a time when our iconic public spaces are marked by more fear than enjoyment. Philippe Petit in his zany French artistry invites us to reimagine our monuments and common life to see beauty and whimsy that is unfettered by fear. Visually stunning, historically accurate, we “dance at the top of the world” together.

5. The End of the Tour – Both Segel and Eisenberg deliver vulnerable and unaffected performances. They help us explore the person of David Foster Wallace but also our fears of rejection and inauthenticity, and questions of what it means to create and connect in the 21st century.

6. Inside Out – Wonderfully inventive and insightful, Pixar gives us some great original content to help children and adults navigate the complexities of our world. And Bing-Bong made me cry.


7. The Visit – I’m a little biased because I love M. Night Shyamalan and I’m always rooting for him to succeed. In this film I think he’s returning to what he does best: using suspense and horror to reveal our deeper fears and unsympathetic hearts. The Visit taps into childhood fears as well as our societal anxieties over growing old and of the elderly as reminders of our eventual deterioration. (Disclaimer: this film contains several scenes of suspense and multiple scenes of violence.)

8. Steve Jobs – Using creative plot devices to explore Jobs’ relationship to the things he has made, we eavesdrop on 3 pivotal moments in his life. With Steve we explore identity and how we are shaped by what we do.

9. Straight Outta Compton – The strength of this film is the story itself. NWA brought the conversation of race in America to the cultural mainstream in a way that is still relevant. It’s not the best made film of the year and contains some degrading treatment of women, but the success of the movie reveals a nerve that we need to continue engaging.


10. Brooklyn – While it’s not a particularly original story, it’s beautifully acted and comes at a time when America and the world are struggling to make decisions about immigrants and their place in our societies. Brooklyn aroused empathy for how difficult it is to leave everything you’ve known behind and become a stranger in a strange land. Timely and important for us to consider America’s immigrant history and what it looks like today.

Honorable Mentions

What We do in the Shadows – A little bloody, but overall hysterical and perfectly acted in the mock-umentary style

Me Earl and the Dying Girl – Thoughtful, funny, a heartfelt look at youth and mortality. Filmed in Pittsburgh, so it must be good!

Tomorrowland – In the fear and doom over climate change, a call for optimism to focus on solutions rather than problems.

See Ivan’s Top 10 list, we chose only 5 of the same films

Our Top Tens 2015

“Selma” left me speechless, but I can’t stay that way.


Speechless. That is how the film “Selma” left me. The horror of the hate and the violence…speechless. The awe of the man that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was…speechless. The talent of the film’s director, Ava DuVernay, and the performance of the man who wore King’s shoes, David Oyelowo…speechless. The weight of a struggle that, as a white man from a predominantly white, rural area of Southwestern PA, I will never fully understand…speechless.

What “Selma” also did, however, was remind me that as a follower of Jesus, in the face of the strife of my brothers and sisters, I am not able to remain speechless. I must, then, attempt to understand. How is this accomplished, though? Luckily, “Selma” also answers that question.

We must enter the lives of people who are different from us. We must be in community, community driven by love, love that is not exclusive. When we are in community we must then open our ears and listen. Listen to people like author and Senior Director of Mobilizing for Sojourners, Lisa Sharon Harper, who said in a piece called “The Other Lie” that followed the events in Ferguson,

“Every human being on the face of the earth…every person on the street, and every single person in Ferguson—is made in the image of God. That means, all things being equal, every single person on earth was created with the command and the capacity to exercise Genesis 1:26-27 dominion, which means to steward or in modern terms, to exercise agency or lead. To diminish the ability of humans to exercise dominion, is to diminish the image of God in them—and to diminish God’s image on earth. And the fastest and surest way to diminish the ability of humans to exercise agency, to lead, is through poverty or oppression.”

We must listen to people like my colleague and friend, Cole Arthur, who struck an important nerve as she cried through her keyboard,

“I tell myself that the last thing the world needs is another black voice telling it to pay attention to black voices. So I read every other voice I can find. And I cry. And I pray. And I theatrically punch my headboard. And I keep my voice tucked deep between the lies that I don’t matter and nothing will change.

But as I lay here trying to tuck that voice a little deeper, a little farther back, it begins to scream. Like nothing you’ve ever heard because it’s like nothing I’ve ever felt. Because Eric Garner… and I can’t breathe. And Trayvon Martin and I have a little brother and I can’t breathe. And he had his hands up and I’m typing with mine, and no one can breathe– no one can think– no one can live if, despite all our best efforts, at the end of the day, the color of my skin ignites so much fear in a person, that they’d rather kill me than speak words to me.”

As your ears, eyes, and heart are open to the struggle that these women are describing you will realize that you do not have to fully understand this struggle the way that your brothers and sisters do to love them, to sit next to them, to advocate for them, to affirm the dignity they are given as living, breathing children of God.

Oh what it must have been like to be in the presence of Dr. King. It becomes very easy for him to become a video clip or a sound byte to us, but “Selma” never lets him be that. He is Dr. King, a Nobel Prize winning, well educated preacher, but he is also Martin. He was a man, an imperfect man, but a man that spent years of his life leading like very few can. He had to be on every minute of every day.


The events that happened in Selma seem like they should be foreign to us, a distant memory, but as the film unfolded I heard the echoes of these tragedies all around me. Specifically, a moment when a young, black man is slain by a point blank shot from an Alabama State trooper, and my mind travelled to a little over a year ago when I watched another movie called, “Fruitvale Station (worth looking up if you haven’t seen it).”

In “Selma,” Dr. King visits that slain young man’s grandfather and assured him that as much as he’s cried for his grandchild that was taken far too soon, “God was the first to cry.” A reminder that on top of being a Nobel laureate, leader, academic, and husband, Dr. King was also a pastor. My prayer is that those words will supply comfort and peace to my friends and I want them to know that I am behind God in that line ready to cry with you.

Lisa Sharon Harper’s full article

Cole Arthur’s full post

Boyhood: Capturing the Reality of Life

The funny thing about children is that they are always watching. They are always observing the world around them, taking it all in. The scary thing about children is wondering what they are absorbing. The smallest conversations, actions, facial expressions, etc. can transform a moment for a kid, and change the way they see the world. This is something that is depicted with terrifying reality in Richard Linklater’s sociology-experiment-of-a-movie, “Boyhood.”


For those who don’t know, the gimmick behind “Boyhood” is that it was filmed over the span of 12 years with the main cast all aging in real time. We join young Mason (Ellar Coltrane) at the age of five staring into the sky wondering, dreaming of what, we can only guess. From there we watch as new characters enter and leave his life like a revolving door all while he looks on with his deep blue eyes that are washing over everything in his environment, consuming all of the sights, sounds, and movements his world has to offer.

Gimmicks can lead filmmakers down some treacherous roads, for examples see the onslaught of point-of-view films in the wake of “The Blair Witch Project” or the decreasing interest in M. Night Shyamalan movies as audiences became accustomed to surprise twists. However, this year we saw some quirky gimmicks used brilliantly (see “Birdman’s” one-shot). What makes “Boyhood” so effective is that we are seeing real people really moving through time, the movie expresses a sense of reality that the best make-up artists in the business can’t provide.

As an audience when we are watching biographical movies we are trained to expect tragedy. You expect people to experience life-changing accidents, heart-breaking deaths, or at least the embarrassment of a parent walking in on something no parent wants to see. Linklater builds these suspenseful moments again and again in “Boyhood,” but with no expected pay off. We have seen story after story of people formed by tragedy, but the truth is that lots of people move through life being formed by very normal experiences: the first time you get a note from a girl in class, your first beer, the first time you shoot a gun, the first ride in your dad’s classic GTO. This again, adds to the reality of the movie.

This may sound mundane and uninteresting but the draw of “Boyhood” is that we experience this story with the wide-eyed wonder of Mason. We are interested in the characters in his life because he is. Mason, as most kids do, says anything and asks everything. The benefit is that we get to see how people react to being asked curious, blunt questions. What this creates are two versions, the audiences’ and Mason’s.

The audience may experience Patricia Arquette’s mom as a strong woman who has survived incredible pain to work through school and become a master’s level psychology professor. Mason barely knows what she teaches or does. Every move she makes is her trying as hard as she can to give her kids a better life. Rarely does Mason or his sister understand why they have to move or why mom is crying. The heartbreaking reality of how little we appreciate our parents.


Mom is contrasted by Mason Sr. played by Ethan Hawke. Raising the kids is easier for him. He gets to swoop in and do fun things with them. He gets to be overly romantic and idealistic. It’s no wonder that by the end of the film, Mason is a spitting image (down to the wrinkled button-up T and scraggly goatee) of his father.

The examples Mason gets are of very real people who are wandering through life without a clear sense of whether or not they are doing things right. They get excited, they move, they fail, they cry, they do it all again. Mason experiences it all and the result is the latter parts of the film being filled with him asking what life is really all about. No one has given him an answer and you can believe he’s been looking for it.

Mason’s penchant for wonder and observation leads him to photography which symbolically fits the entire scope of the film. “Boyhood” is about the moments that make up life. Linklater provides these moments in many ways: fashion, hair styles, music of the time. Mason loves capturing those moments, freezing them, examining them. There are very few overly dramatic or intense scenes, but “Boyhood” is engaging and beautiful because it is life displayed in a way movies rarely can capture and, by the end, it may have you asking what your life is really all about.

I’m not “Wild” about grief but love redemption.

Cheryl sits up, hunched over barely holding the weight of her body numbed by the drugs flowing through her veins. She is naked, bruised, colored by the smears of her makeup and the mattress on the floor she rests on is hardly offering support or comfort. Everything about the woman, daughter, thinker, sister, wife she once was is lost. Her body is lost to the drugs. Her dignity is on the mattress with the guy passed out against the stained wall. Her mother is lost to the disease all too common, cancer. Her mind is lost to grief.

Cheryl Strayed

Real life Cheryl Strayed on the Pacific Coast Trail.

For those who have experienced grief, this tale might be relatable or understandable. The world changes on the other side loss. Before loss you feel safe. Before loss you are moving forward towards your dreams and goals. Afterwards the rules are different, you are different. How can you possibly move forward when you can barely move? How can the world have meaning when you can barely feel? This is the ride we get to go on with Cheryl Strayed in “Wild,” based on her memoir and starring Reese Witherspoon.

“Wild” tells a story about grief but also about guilt and shame and thousands of other emotions that we experience with Strayed as she pulls a Proclaimers and walks 500 miles and then walks 500 more on the Pacific Crest Trail. This journey is like watching someone go through an entire penitential Lenten season in two hours. Every step of the trail is a reminder of the pain she’s felt and wrongs she’s committed to those who are closest to her.

The walk is part of finding herself. After all, Strayed’s memoir is subtitled “From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail.” However, the walk is also self-inflicted punishment. Strayed carries her pack like it’s filled with all her burdens and at the end of the day she has the scares to prove how heavy it is.

The clever way the film is pieced together combined with Witherpoon’s performance pulls you in. You want to know what went wrong, you want to know how bad it got. And as Strayed goes back, deeper and deeper into the dark places she goes forward. The hike gets easier the farther she goes. The pack, sometimes literally, gets lighter.


There are times in this film when you hate Strayed for doing drugs, for cheating, etc. The thing is she hates herself for the same things as she imagines doing them with her deceased mom, played beautifully by Laura Dern, looking on. There are also times when you will love Strayed for her insightful quotes, the comradery she forms with fellow hikers, her reactions to well deserved Snapples, and more. There are also times when you feel her fear, her frustration, and her sadness.

It is easy to feel with Strayed, one because of Witherspoon’s portrayal, and two because she could be any of us. This film won’t be a cake walk for anyone who has experienced the kind of grief Strayed has but it can be rewarding knowing that anyone deserves a second chance. Along the way Strayed gets to realize how much she was throwing away, how much she is worth. Perhaps the best part about this journey is that it didn’t make Strayed perfect, it redeemed her and made her stronger. The rules do change after your loved ones slip through your fingers, but Strayed proves you can still play the game.

In “Foxcatcher,” devaluing others leads to a grim ending.

The real-life John du Pont

John du Pont, dressed in his Foxcatcher best, being arrested after the murder of Olympic gold medalist Dave Schultz.

When I was a kid my favorite toys were action figures. These were not the dolls my sisters played with, they wore camo, carried guns, and always caught the eye of the lone female action figure I had (Dr. Ellie Sattler from “Jurassic Park” of course). As the only boy amongst my siblings, my narrative interests as I played with toys were very different from those of my sisters. They cared if Barbie finally landed Ken, while in my productions there was always more at stake, most of the time the safety of the entire world.

What drew me in to playing with these toys was the creative freedom I had. They could do anything and go anywhere I needed them to go to advance my story. I used old soda boxes to create elaborate city skylines and when my main villain needed the upper hand on my valiant hero his main mode of capture was freezing my protagonist in a glass of water. This is a good time to thank my mom for putting up with the lack of freezer space.

As time went on, I realized that the fantasy world I’d created in my soda box city didn’t have to be the end. I could put the action figures away and participate in the real world with real people. When we enter Bennett Miller’s hauntingly weird retelling of the real-life events that ended in the murder of Olympic gold medalist Dave Schultz, the picture he paints of Schultz’s murderer, John du Pont, is that of a man raised in wealth that maybe never separated the six inch plastic soldiers in his life to living breathing people.


“Foxcatcher,” named for the ranch owned by du Pont that became a training ground for US Olympic wrestling in the late 1980’s, exhibits du Pont as a boy trapped in a man’s body. Every move is made to impress his mother that has little to no interest in anything but maintaining the gaudy brass sconce laden world that is their estate. He fills his ranch with action figures in the form of wrestlers led by world and Olympic champion Mark Schultz, whose book the film is based.

Maybe we see du Pont’s life when he has given up on participating in the world and just wants to play with his toys. These wrestlers are things that he can play with and exploit. Mark Schultz has been adamant that there were no sexual interactions with du Pont during his stay at Foxcatcher and I really don’t believe that Miller expresses an explicit homosexual tone in some of the scenes that are called into question. Du Pont’s actions in the film, to me, are exploitation. He is acting out all of his boyhood fantasies with real-life toys. We even see him buying a tank. What little boy doesn’t want to ride in a tank?

Carell’s performance, the shocking murder scene, the dark, foggy environment of the ranch are all frightening aspects to the film but perhaps the most horrifying piece of this true crime puzzle is how old money and a culture of wealth created the monster. The tragedy is that when he was done playing with his toys one Olympic gold medalist was no longer a champion and the other Olympic gold medalist, devoted coach, loving brother, husband, and father was dead. A possession of du Pont’s put back in the toy box because the game didn’t end his way.

“Foxcatcher” is undoubtedly filled with some of the best acting performances of the year. My sympathies to Channing Tatum who will more than likely be overshadowed at Oscar time by Carell in the lead and the awards veteran status of Mark Ruffalo who starred as Dave Schultz. Tatum was perfect and heart-wrenching as Mark Schultz, a role the likes he may never see again.

Tatum’s best scene in the film is an example of the emotional toll exploitation can have. Dealing with a loss and looking into a mirror, unable to recognize the person he has become in the wake of the life he has been leading as du Pont’s lap dog, he snaps and self harms. He spins into self-destruction. He loses his sense of worth he proudly felt at the beginning of the story with the gold medal around his neck. Du Pont’s whittling away of the personhood of those around him leads to an unhappy ending, a reminder of what it looks like to take away the value of another person.