M and I saw UP last weekend.   You may have already heard that it contains a scene depicting infertility and/or pregnancy loss, and for that reason watching it may be difficult for those who are struggling with infertility.  I say this at the outset, so you can prepare yourself if you plan to see it.  (Mel thankfully posted this warning from another blogger at LFCA).   And potential spoiler alert: while I don’t discuss much of the plot in this post, I do describe one particular scene that moved me deeply, that contains some plot details.

UP was an important movie for me to see.  I wept, I laughed out loud, and I have not been able to stop thinking about it since.  I found it to be fairly un-Disney-ish in the sense that it acknowledged (and addressed head-on) that our lives often do not go according to our plans and dreams.  (So much for the Cinderella “no matter how your heart is grieving, if you keep on believing, the dream that you wish will come true” philosophy that was at the heart of most of the movies I saw as a child.  I can still sing every word to that ridiculous — and false — song.  But I digress.) 

The first fifteen minutes of UP includes a remarkable, four-minute long scene that shows the story of a couple’s life together.  Reminiscent of the first part of Wall-E, the montage contains no dialogue — only music, and short scenes from various stages of their marriage.  (This montage has been praised in other articles, and the director of UP has stated that this scene is one of the things in the film of which he is the most proud.)  In the scene, we see a cute and likable couple, Carl and Ellie, marry and begin their life together.  They purchase a house, take walks together, have picnics, and begin to dream of having children.  They prepare a baby room.  They then appear in a doctor’s office: the doctor is shaking his head, Ellie is weeping with her head in her hands, and Carl, looking stricken, is trying to console her.  We then see Ellie sitting in her backyard, alone.  She appears to be lost in thought, and she has a look of quiet sadness and reflection.  Carl approaches her bearing a special book from her childhood that cheers her up.  They smile at each other.  And they then go on to live together as a childless couple: growing old together, loving each other deeply and planning for future adventures. 

In a later scene, Carl is surprised to learn that Ellie considered her life with him to be the fulfillment of her dreams of adventure.  It wasn’t what she had planned for as a child longing to travel the world, nor what she had hoped for when they were first married and dreaming of children, but it became the realization of her dreams of adventure all the same, in its own unique and beautiful way. 

The film is filled with other examples that emphasize this theme of hopes and dreams failing to come to fruition, and the unexpected joy we can find in the reality that replaces them.  There are some dreams that are never fulfilled due to events outside of our control, and still others that we have to release in order to experience the unanticipated adventures that arise in their place.  The house, suspended between the earth and the heavens by thousands of balloons, is the most dominating metaphor for this theme.

Right now, my life is not going according to my plans and dreams.  M and I desperately want to be parents.  We will celebrate our seventh anniversary this weekend, and we both believed that we would have a child by now.  But even now, our lives are still fulfilling and wonderful in their own right.  And there is something especially beautiful about the unexpected, the unplanned, the undesired, blossoming into the real, the true, and the surprisingly joyful.  Could there be a unique beauty in a life that doesn’t go according to plan? 

I appreciated that UP’s creators chose to include Carl and Ellie’s infertility.  It wasn’t crucial to the plot — we’ve seen lots of characters and couples in movies who are childless, no questions really asked — but it was a very real and moving way of showing how a person’s dreams, however hard they may dream them, might not actually come true.  And (not taking away that this is very sad, and tragic) it’s still okay.  UP does contain resolution, but not in the way you expect — and certainly not in line with the platitudes that often are offered to infertile couples (“just adopt,” “of course you’ll get pregnant,” “this is all happening for a reason,” etc.).

Later, when M and I were discussing the movie, I said, “We’re going to be okay.  This is all going to be okay, even if it’s just you and me.”  Our adventure in this life may not be how we planned it.  But that doesn’t mean it won’t be beautiful, wonderful, and good.

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