If you know me at all, you know that it doesn't take much for me to turn into a blubbering fool. I can cry pretty much at any sentimental point in a movie, sometimes even if I hate the movie...it's a talent.
I can remember the first movie that made me cry: "Lilo and Stitch". Of course, this is the movie that I remember first crying to, there were probably many others before that including a made-for-TV-movie-based-on-a-book-kind-of-deal that was about a turtle named Franklin...I don't recall exactly how the story went but there was a moose involved.
With "Lilo and Stitch" however, I do remember the exact circumstance. I should mention that I had seen the movie several times before, but it wasn't until I was surrounded by friends and family that I broke down. The scene in question showed a group of girls bullying Lilo for having an ugly doll. It wasn't the bullying that bothered me, which I think would be the more potent tear-enducing-formula now; but it was how Lilo reacted. She threw her doll on the ground and stomped off, angry that her ugly doll—the one that she had made—was a source of mockery. Of course, that didn't last long and Lilo ran back to the doll, picked it up, and gave it a big hug.
That's the first movie I remember that made me cry.
But why should we want to watch movies that make us cry? Isn't the point of film escapism? Well, maybe not. Part of it, I hypothesize, is that misery loves company. If we see a person going through the same circumstances that we have, it's almost comforting, and we can cry for that. A lot of the tears come from bittersweet moments of triumph. That's what we love to see, a person who as been in the pits of despair (don't even think of escaping, the chains are far too thick) overcoming the odds and rising to the height of glory as a victor.
This is why I cry for Celie in "The Color Purple". No scene hits me so hard as the last one, when she finally gets to meet her children after the many, many years. The music swells and the tears fall...forget it, I'm a mess.
This is also why I cried, basically sobbing, my way through "The Impossible". The separation of mother, father, and children by a cataclysmic event was scary enough. Add to this the horrors that the family had to endure and the sweet, sweet sense of reunion. Forget it, I'm a mess again.
We all love the triumph. That's why we cry, because we're happy for a character to achieve such happiness. A part of us feels their pain. Our empathy is a good thing.
The triumph leads us to cry at scenes like the pen scene from "A Beautiful Mind" or the ending scene in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest".
It's even worse when there is an air on finality to it—as in searching for something your whole life and finally achieving or grasping it.
Which brings us to another reason—we weep for the despair. Things don't always have a happy ending. We love the victor, because we love the bittersweet of the triumph. But we also cry for the despair, for the loss. This is why the moments in "Schindler's List" hit most of us hard. Because we can feel the tangible loss, literally the death. Though it is in the end scene when Spielberg emerges over the top of a hill accompanied with the people who Schindler saved and they walk to the man's grave and place stones of thanks upon it when, the tissues need to start coming.
But here again, is this truly a loss? Schindler actually triumphed over the Nazis and that's what makes the film so powerful.
True loss, true despair is even more powerful. I can think of no better example of this than "The Thin Red Line". The loss of life is staggering, the emotion that this brings is stifling. This is me weeping at my finest.
Another movie, thought it's hard to consider it when you weigh the hipster disdain towards the piece, is "Titanic". That deals with loss, lots of loss. There is no real triumph here unless you consider the precious moments of love a triumph...which I don't. For some reason, James Cameron is an easy target for people to hate...why?
Anyways, yes, the tears come for "Titanic" because of genuine loss.
We cry for that intangible moment of emotion that accompanies certain events, unfamiliar to us except through a screen. That's what makes film great.
So essentially this article has been pointless because the fact is that movies make us cry and we keep going to see them.
Here are the more potent moments for me in no particular order:
|Dealing with loss in "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close"|
|Schindler wanting to sell his ring in "Schindler's List"|
|Patsey getting whipped in "12 Years a Slave"|
|Finally getting to walk on top of the clouds in "Man on Wire"|
|Dealing with grief in "Ordinary People"|
What are your tear-jerker moments? Let us know.