By Nick Maylor
Movies have the power to make us dream the Impossible. They make us think. They make us laugh. Sometimes they have the power to bring us to tears. Today, I am focusing on that latter element of cinema; the ability to create a lump in our throats and manifest serious optical waterworks.
I’m not a macho guy. I’m not concerned with being the alpha male, nor am I uptight about showing my emotions. If a movie has the goods to get me there, I will submit to it and let the tears flow. I will happily give props to any film that can do it for me. Some movies surprise me with it. A future article may discuss some unexpected films that brought tears to my eyes but for today I am focusing on three specific films that never fail to make me cry.
Each of us is set off by different things. Sometimes it has to hit hard; close to home. Sometimes it can be a hallmark commercial. Depending on one’s mood it can literally be spilled milk. Many films have made me cry but these three always deliver the goods.
3. FORREST GUMP (1994)
Between Philadelphia (1993), The Green Mile (1999), Castaway (2000) the Toy Story films and Captain Phillips (2013), Tom Hanks doesn’t hold anything back with those sentimental acting chops. I could probably do an entire list of Hanks’ films that have brought me to tears but for now, I have to focus on one of my all-time favourites.
The story of a simple-minded Alabama man who unwittingly becomes involved in some of the most key moments of the twentieth century is not short on sentiment. Spanning decades, it deals with love, war, loss, death, birth, and legacy. There are many brilliant moments that tug at the heartstrings; largely due to Hanks’ brilliant performance. Forrest works as a character because he is so pure of heart; endowed with an intrinsic good that anyone should aspire to emulate. When he finds out he has a son, his visceral reaction is one of pure selflessness. He does not think about how this news will impact his life. His only concern is that his progeny might be “stupid” like he is. He wants a world with as little pain and suffering as possible, never wanting his child to endure the taunts and trials that he himself went through. Forrest Gump is not a smart man, but he knows what love is.
Hanks is perfection here. He plays the moment without a shred of irony; pure, selfless Forrest.
I think I have something in my eye.
2. A STAR IS BORN (2018)
As we’ve stated before, Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut is a soaring achievement that touches the most human parts of us. The music alone can render someone a blubbering mess. Songs like “Is That Alright?” and “I’ll Never Love Again” are towering epics sung by Lady Gaga as her character and for anyone who has seen the film, the album itself is an enriching experience and companion piece, revealing motivations, emotions, and details of the main characters much deeper than the film alone can convey.
The film alone, however, contains more than enough tear-jerk material that at least one scene should be able to break you (if multiple moments don’t). To each their own…
The moment that destroyed me was after Jackson (Cooper) has publicly humiliated his wife Ally (Gaga) and is doing a stint in rehab. I’ve lived versions of this moment. Cooper’s performance is sublime, wanting to hide his face in his hand as he throws himself at Ally’s mercy with apology and shame for his behaviour.
Cue the waterworks.
1. MY DOG SKIP (2000)
We (humans) do not deserve dogs. We engineered them through selective breeding from wolves so in a sense, we created them. Nevertheless, we are not worthy of having them as our best friends. They love unconditionally. They would gladly die to protect us. They give us more love in a short number of years than we could ever repay them.
This wonderful film directed by Jay Russell tells the autobiographical story of Willie Morris; a boy given a Jack Russell terrier for his birthday. The story takes place in the 1940s and shows the remarkable bond between man and canine. Skip the dog is portrayed by veteran dog actor Enzo, famous for his work on the television show Frasier as Eddie. Enzo’s father Moose (who first portrayed Eddie on Frasier) appears as the elder skip during the film’s ending. While I was already a fan of these four-legged thespians, the movie stole my heart upon my first viewing. It is a wonderful coming-of-age tale set in the American south during a turbulent time in the nation’s history. An all-star cast featuring Frankie Muniz, Diane Lane, Kevin Bacon, and Luke Wilson is supported by the fantastic narration of Harry Connick Jr.
Much like the film’s protagonist, I was given a Jack Russell terrier for my 9th birthday. Her name was Mindy. She lived to be 17 years old and I loved that animal. 2 years ago I rescued another Jack Russell named Teddy. While he has issues with anxiety and pent up energy, his charm is undeniable. He has caused me serious frustration, but he is my best friend and I never would have imagined how much he would steal my heart. He’s sitting at my feet right now as I watch this. I’ll never be able to watch this film with him though. He HATES seeing other dogs on television. Nevertheless, I love the mutt.
While there are plenty of heart-wrenching moments during the film (made subliminally affecting by the dog’s wonderful performance) the moment that always gets me is at the film’s denouement. My words cannot do it justice. If there is a single moment in all of cinematic history that rips my heart wide open, it’s this one.
Stick a fork in me. I’m DONE.
Nick is an actor/writer/comedian/musician from Hamilton, ON Canada. Having been a film nut since the early days of his life, Nick has had an obsession with cinema and popular entertainment. Nick has written for thecinemaholic.com and is the current Foote & Friends “expert” on all things geek/superhero/comic-book related. Nick is the host/producer of the official Foote & Friends On Film podcast. Nick met John when studying acting at the Toronto Film School, for which John H. Foote was director and Film History professor. The two have been arguing ever since.
Follow Nick on Twitter @NickMaylor