I got a new day planner/organizer this year (as I’m sure many other people did). This year I’m really excited because on each week it asks for a list of things. I love lists, so I am enjoying filling in the lists each week. That being said, this week my list is empty. As I write this it is Saturday morning and I have not added a single item. The topic: “A list of favorite movies from last year.” I can’t think of any.
This year already (24 days in) I have seen two amazing films: Philomena and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.
Both films are beautiful in their own ways and both films left me thinking about grace.
Both films show how the lives of their namesakes are disrupted through the actions of the people around them.
Both films are a challenge to live a gracious life of peace, mercy and forgiveness.
Judy Dench plays the role of Philomena, a woman who finally opens up later in life about how her son was adopted without her permission while working off the cost of her birth in an Irish Abbey as a teenager. The Nuns, one in particular, hide Philomena’s son’s whereabouts and information as a punishment for Philomena’s sin of pre-marital sex. In fact, decades later, the same Nun never relents in her belief that Philomena must pay for her sins. A reporter is helping Philomena and writing a ‘human interest story’ about her journey. Throughout the film, he feels more anger and hate than Philomena feels herself. In fact, in the end, Philomena, in a heartbreaking scene, forgives the Nun responsible and she actually means and gives that forgiveness after a lifetime of sorrow and pain.
The story of Mandela is not new. His recent death has put Mandela back into the spot light and has people thinking about his life’s works and legacy. This film was excellent because at points I couldn’t stand the man, and then he would do or say something that had me wanting to cheer out loud in the theatre.
Mandela chose the path of reconciliation, grace, forgiveness, mercy, and cooperation. He could have become violent, bitter, and power-hungry. He was an ordinary man who sought to see the soul in others and sought to protect the dignity of all, no matter the race or religion of the people around him. I keep hearing the song “Ordinary Love” by U2, which was in the film, on the radio and every time I hear it I think of Mandela’s decision to live a life of forgiveness and grace. My favourite lines from the song are:
I can’t fight you anymore
It’s you I’m fighting for.
The sea throws rock together
But time leaves us polished stones.
That is exactly the message of Mandela and of Philomena in these films: live a thoughtful life full of grace, love, and compassion. They are ordinary people who, to them, loved in an ordinary way. Yet sadly, to many of us, their actions of grace are extraordinary.
And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. (John 1:16)