My sons and I went to the Christmas night opening show. It was only showing at one theater in the South Shore area. In spite of the language and violence (no real sexual themes) it is a Christmas movie – a change of heart, honesty about who we are and what we have become, the power of acceptance and love, and the move from power to sacrifice as the lever to change what’s wrong with the world – one block of one neighborhood at a time.
Clint Eastwood is an ornery old guy who has just lost his wife in death and who must now live alone. His hard ways and impatience have alienated his sons who seem a bit too eager to shove him off to a retirement complex and collect whatever is theirs from what is left over. But Eastwood can’t be bothered to care. All he wants is to live alone and have everyone stay off his lawn.
The only problem is that his neighborhood is turning Hmong and eventually their ways and issues begin to suck Eastwood into a world of family, the one thing Eastwood doesn’t do well. But through a couple of teenagers next door the gap is bridged and before long he is caring and fixing and repairing and sharing. Watching him do this is the funny part of the movie. And there was a lot of laughter in the audience during the show.
All Eastwood wants in life was to do his job well, not be bothered by stupid people, including the Church, keep his tools in order and take care of his Ford Gran Torino. But his new life won’t let him stay there. He finds out that he not only can love but does. And that love will move him to a sacrifice he could not imagine making.
Gangs are part of the neighborhood – as one teen observes, the girls go to college and the boys go to jail. Those gangs threaten the two teens who live next door and Eastwood must save them. Vengeful violence is his natural way, but he has seen what that did to him and the hard man he became. The two teens next store must be saved but retribution will not be the answer because of what it does to the distributors of justice. The rest of the movie is in your hands.
I am constantly amazed that no matter how secular a movie, the themes that keep surfacing are the very ones met head on by the Christrian worldview. A thoughtful world knows that somewhere there must be a Savior who conquers by love and through whom we have justice of another kind. The myths and fables of the ages are alive among us today. Christianity is a true myth. It’s the story as old as the world come to life.