2008.02.06 A video of epic proportions

Written by David Green.

By COLLEEN LEDDY

I don’t always watch all the movies David receives in the mail from Netflix, but he assigned me a “must-see,” “Namesake,” after watching it himself. David knows I don’t like movies with a lot of violence or those that are plotless or just too bizarre.

He’ll watch those in snatches on his lunch hour or before I get home from work. When he comes across one that he knows I’ll like, he’ll strongly suggest I watch it. It’s like having my own personal screener.

Sometimes, he’s way off the mark and I wonder if he really knows me. But, “Namesake” was such a great movie, an epic beauty right from the start, that I think David should assign it to everybody. It opens with a young man, Ashoke, traveling by train in India to visit his grandfather.

He sits reading a book on the train and is approached by an older jovial gentleman who engages him in conversation. The older man asks Ashoke what he’s reading and then offers his advice: Travel the world, go abroad, see the world while you’re young and free.

“My grandfather says that’s what books are for: to travel without moving an inch,” says Ashoke.    

I loved that line so much I had to stop the movie and write it down. What happens next influences the rest of the story and the young man indeed ends up traveling—all the way to America—and then traveling back to India for an arranged marriage, and to bring his bride to New York. But he also travels between two worlds as he and his wife, Ashima, raise a family in America.

Roger Ebert says, “‘The Namesake’ tells a story that is the story of all immigrant groups in America: Parents of great daring arriving with dreams, children growing up in a way that makes them almost strangers, the old culture merging with the new.”

That’s a general idea of the movie, but there are so many more themes and layers. It’s a mesmerizing story and so easy to feel drawn in. When Ashima’s father died, I weep right along with her and when her son doesn’t communicate with her for lengths of time, I feel great waves of guilt knowing I did the same sort of thing with my own mother. Yes, it’s a movie about an immigrant family from India, but it cuts across all cultures.

I watched another great movie this weekend—a 1988 video of David’s grandmother, Minnie Green, and her 100th birthday celebration.

Set in the home of her son and daughter-in-law Bob and Jackie Green, it featured a cast of characters from Minnie’s life—old friends, fellow teachers, business associates, church members, neighbors, and family, of course, and even includes the mailman—in a cameo appearance by Jack Baird —who stepped in to say hello while out doing his rounds. He didn’t have time to enjoy a slice of cake, but he did wish Minnie a happy birthday.

Videographer Dan Green should be commended for capturing significant moments on screen such as great-granddaughters Megan and Lisa Ball telling a frog joke—How deep is a frog’s pond? Knee deep, knee deep—and David Green performing an impersonation of Thom Green.

Although we have box upon box of still photos, we didn’t buy a video camera until our children were old enough to operate it on their own. Consequently, we don’t have any footage of them when they were little. That’s probably why this video is just so precious. Unfortunately, Maddie wasn’t born yet; Ben is about five and Rozee’s not quite two.

They just look so sweet and beautiful, so pure and innocent.

Although, there is this little scene where Uncle Dan is filming and says, “Hey, Ben,” and Ben yells, “What?” with great annoyance in his voice.

And Dan says, “Say, Hello.” And Ben says, “No way!” in this loud, very snotty five-year-old voice. Then I swoop in and guide Ben away from the action saying, “Come here, please.”

It sounds like Ben's going to get chewed out for being rude—although you can see I'm amused by the exchange, so maybe I’m just going to tell Ben to stop throwing paper cups which it looks like he was just doing.

Not an epic beauty, but I give it a thumbs up and four stars out of four.

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