I Saw The Light Between Oceans

140672CM01B_Trp_Email_LR.pdfAn actress who has become a fast fave of mine is Alicia Vikander. When I saw she was in “The Light Between Oceans,” I knew I should see it. Coupled with Michael Fassbender, and it became something I had been looking forward to for a few months now. And so thankful am I to have not been disappointed. Here are the shining moments of the film:




—SPOILER ALERT—


—–1) As a man, it is difficult for me to relate to the experience of miscarriage. Yet, my heart was pierced and my gut was gutted when I saw the trauma in Isabelle’s (Vikander) two losses. The helplessness of both mother and father as the child comes stillborn, the vulnerability of life, the hopes suddenly spilling, all of it was so cruel and devastating. It helped me think of times my own friends endured such loss, and while I only heard the news after the fact, seeing it portrayed as it happens is terrifying.

Yet, the scene here also shows the irony of intentionally and deliberately terminating unborn children in the womb, aka: abortion. We have couples who are desperate to save their unborn children from miscarriage but are helpless and at the mercy of their infertility, yet then we also have merciless couples desperate to destroy their unborn children. And the only difference between the two kinds of couples is that one truly loves their children, and the other is inconvenienced by them.

the-light-between-oceans-michael-fassbender-alicia-vikander-rachel-weisz-002159-r_1920_1080-f_jpg-q_x-xxyxx—–2) On the note of parenthood, Isabelle shares that (paraphrasing): “When a wife loses her husband, she becomes a widow, but when a mother loses her child, she remains a mother always, even if she has no children left. I wonder if I am still a sister, since I have lost my brothers.”

This is such a profound insight that reflects the “till death do you part” vow in true Christian marriage, when spouses vow their fidelity with such determination and faithfulness that only their death might end it. Hence, a surviving wife becomes a widow, or a surviving husband becomes a widower. However, this film demonstrates the permanence of motherhood and fatherhood on many levels.

One level is that Isabelle and Tom (Fassbender) are parents, even with their loss of two stillborn children. Parents are always parents, even if all their children have gone to judgment before them (by whatever means). Parents who loved their lost children must realize however, that the children are not lost, but are waiting for them in the hereafter. Parents should then live so as to strive to be with their children again, to pray for them and ask them for prayers.

Another level is Hannah (Weisz) remains a mother too, despite her thinking her daughter is dead. And we also see that she remains a loving and devoted wife to her lost husband, revealing that though she is a widow, she remains his.

And powerfully foiling Hannah, we see that Isabelle struggles to remain Tom’s. She disowns him for surrendering to justice, and she does not allow herself to love him again until it is almost too late. Eventually, she finds forgiveness and also surrenders to the truth. I was so grateful to see this story go this way, the way of fighting to keep a marriage, to keep a love beating at the moment it has bled out.Alicia-Vikander-in-The-Light-Between-Oceans

—–3) And we see in this story (unlike in Kubo and the Two Strings) that the truth must always and will always have its day. Nothing good, not even a seemingly happy family, can be built on a lie and deception. Tom’s character, so morally formed and conscientious, cannot live with the lie, with keeping a child hidden from her true and loving mother. Tom knows the deception and must right it. Even in the end, Isabelle realizes her love, however honest it is, is flawed when founded on a lie.

In fact, the lie ages and wears down Tom and Isabelle and leaves them childless in the end. Even Isabelle yearns and hopes Hannah could forgive her for the evil she did. This film is dripping with the characters wrestling with the truth and finding out that the truth is alive and far more subtle and cunning than their greatest deceits. Lies die, and then Truth rises up alive.

Most beautifully done, however, is that we see after the truth is respected, the relationships bloom on a sure future. When truth becomes the foundation of love and relations, then it becomes easy and beautiful. The catharsis we see when Lucy-Grace (as a grown woman and mother herself) visits an aged Tom is something that could only have happened with the support of the truth.the-light-between-oceans-michael-fassbender-alicia-vikander-rachel-weisz-349486-r_1920_1080-f_jpg-q_x-xxyxx

—–4) Finally, great acts of forgiveness abound in the story; acts so great that even the police question why anyone (in this case, Hannah) would forgive the couple who is suspected of murdering her husband and kidnapping her daughter. But we see that this is how a happy and fulfilled life should be lived. Hannah remembers wise words from her husband (paraphrasing): “It’s too hard to resent, you have to think about it and remember it all the time. It’s tiring. It’s better to forgive so you can live.”

We also see, as mentioned earlier, how Isabelle forgives Tom, and thereby allows them to live a better marriage into old age. However, we must also note that Tom has forgiven Isabelle: for originally insisting they keep the baby and hide the body of Hannah’s husband, for refusing to admit the truth, and for finally revealing the truth even when it meant her conviction and imprisonment. We see here how Tom’s love led him to forgive her all these times, every time.

And that’s exactly it: only love makes it possible to forgive, and if not your own limited love, then for God’s infinite love.

—–BONUS) Two mothers fighting to keep/regain a child… sure reminds me of the case King Solomon once heard (1 Kings 3:16-28). Yet, in “The Light Between Oceans,” we see both women willing to part with the girl when they realized she was better off with the other. How beautiful a twist to put on the renowned Biblical story.

—–Note: I also appreciated the sound baptism and Christian marriage being celebrated, and the chastity portrayed in the couple’s relationship. But religiously, what caught me most was the solemn chanting of prayer in the score when Tom first encountered his daughter’s true mother, and the truth staring him down and demanding him make things right. In the background, a minister’s words about sin, and our mission to oppose it and refuse it, also adds to the theme of the story: A lasting love and family must be built on truth.

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Children of Crime

Quite simply, it is never fair and never just to punish the innocent children of guilty criminals.

If a man or woman are guilty of any crime, why would anyone also jail their uninvolved and innocent children? Think about how absurd this would be, if we as a society and culture punished the children of criminals who had nothing to do with the crime of their parents:

  1. Crime: Dad gets wasted and starts driving on the road. Kills another driver, and does not survive the accident himself. Punishment: Throw the man’s daughter in jail and torch her license.
  2. Crime: Mom gets wasted and starts driving on the road. Kills another driver, and does not survive the accident herself. Punishment: Throw the woman’s son in jail and torch his license.

Sounds insane, does it not? Yet, it gets crazier still when the criminal survives but his/her innocent child is punished instead! Imagine this:

  1. Crime: Dad gets wasted and starts driving on the road. Kills another driver, and survives the accident unscathed. Punishment: Throw the man’s daughter in jail and torch her license, but let the man go free–no questions asked.
  2. Crime: Mom gets wasted and starts driving on the road. Kills another driver, and survives the accident unscathed. Punishment: Throw the woman’s son in jail and torch his license, but let the woman go free–no questions asked.

Now, mix in the death penalty, and it goes manic-mode:

  1. Crime: Dad gets wasted and starts driving on the road. Kills another driver, and survives the accident unscathed. Punishment: Execute the man’s daughter, but let the man go free–no questions asked.
  2. Crime: Mom gets wasted and starts driving on the road. Kills another driver, and survives the accident unscathed. Punishment: Execute the woman’s son, but let the woman go free–no questions asked.

Now consider this:

  1. Crime: Dad cheats on Mom. The mistress gets pregnant and carries Dad’s child. Punishment: Abort (execute, kill, murder) Dad’s daughter, but let Dad and his mistress go free–no questions asked.
  2. Crime: Mom cheats on Dad. Mom gets pregnant and she carries the boyfriend’s child. Punishment: Abort (execute, kill, murder) Mom’s son, but let Mom and her boyfriend go free–no questions asked.

And does it really make any more sense if this was the case:In Expectation

  1. Crime: Dad rapes a woman. Woman gets pregnant and carries Dad’s child. Punishment: Abort (execute, kill, murder) Dad’s daughter, but let him live, and the woman no longer needs any help since her problem is gone (please ask questions).
  2. Crime: Mom is raped. Mom gets pregnant and carries the rapist’s child. Punishment: Abort (execute, kill, murder) Mom’s son, but let the man live, and Mom no longer needs any help since her problem is gone (please ask questions).

So how much sense does it make to murder innocent children when their parents are the criminals, the adulterers and adulteresses, the fornicators and betrayers and cheaters? Why slap capital punishment onto guiltless babies when their mothers and/or fathers are responsible for the crime, the evil? Why is abortion even seen as a solution when it butchers innocent babies? And if the parents are innocent victims themselves, why also victimize the children, and how does doing so solve anything?

These are questions we must ask ourselves as a culture and society, because innocent children are dying and their own guilty parents want them to, so they [the parents] can live freely without them, without punishment, and yet… without the chance to learn to love their children.

LIFE-GENDER

CNS-LIFE-GENDER — Behind the scenes- the model of a fetus in the womb. On Mother’s Day, one of the most startling broadcasts will be In the Womb on National Geographic Channel. Pictures of unborn infants are not new but this two-hour Brit documentary uses the latest in 3-D scanning technology to provide exceptional images of a baby girl from conception to birth. Her mouth opens, she swallows amniotic fluid, hiccups, learns innate reflexes when startled, seems to recognize familiar voices and music, selects a favourite thumb to suck (at 11 weeks), dreams (but of what?) and generally is awake about 10 per cent of the time. (CP PHOTO/ Alliance Atlantis/ HO) *Calgary Herald Merlin Archive* DATE PUBLISHED THURSDAY, MAY 5, 2005 DATE PUBLISHED THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 2005 *Calgary Herald Merlin Archive*FOR CNS LIFE PACKAGE, APRIL 2, 2010

 

The Conjuring is Conquering

conjuring-posterWhen I first saw The Conjuring (2013) by director James Wan, I knew the film was special in its class. The sequel, The Conjuring 2 (2016), affirms the series’ uniqueness. At the end of my review, I’ll mention the standout point from the first film, but for now, let me share how The Conjuring is conquering its genre (see here for my thoughts on The Nun).

—SPOILER ALERT—

—–1) In this earlier review here, we learn that the writers for the movie series are devout Christians, and not only that, but are also devout Catholic Christians. Now although all Christians are similar in that we love and follow Jesus Christ, other Christians differ in that they broke away from the Church Jesus originally founded on St. Peter, our Lord’s first pope. Perhaps in a later post I can share more about this schism (to break away), but for now, we see in the film a few examples of why the Catholic Church stands apart from the Christian denominations that broke off from her to start their own churches. The first example is when we see Ed and Lorraine Warren discuss that any work they do must be cleared by “the Church.” And we all know that “the Church” refers to: the Catholic Church. Not the neighborhood community church, or the city central church, etc., but the Catholic Church. This reminds me of a quote from renowned movie critic Roger Ebert:ExorcismMeme

—–2) The second example of the Catholic Church’s primacy is the use and display of crucifixes in the film. Catholics and Orthodox Christians use and prefer crucifixes, and a crucifix is different from a mere cross: crosses do not have the little statue or image of Jesus affixed, but crucifixes do. In the film, we see a room covered in crosses, but the crosses are playthings to the demon. Evil does not fear two sticks glued together. However, when a crucifix comes out, especially when it comes out in the hands of a faithful and prayerful Christian, the demons freak. The key is that the crucifixion of Jesus Christ changes the mere cross into a weapon against sin and Satan. Without Jesus, a cross is merely an instrument of terrorism and torture, but with Jesus’ sacrifice, the cross becomes the beams that crush Hell. Here’s a little meme to summarize:CrossWithChrist

—–3) An extra sign of the Church’s power is in Ed’s use of Latin in his prayer to St. Michael the Archangel. We saw this in the first Conjuring (and in many other exorcism films), and it is reinforced here. To keep this short and sweet: Latin is the language of the Catholic Church, it’s the mother language of Catholics, and whether we know it or not, Latin remains our inheritance. In fact, real exorcists have claimed that Latin prayers have a extra punch to them than prayers in usual languages. Demons seem to despise Latin prayers, perhaps because the only culture that uses Latin in conversation today is the Church. In Latin prayers, the Church converses with her Lord Jesus Christ, and it’s a conversation most worthy of being had. Latin, because no other society uses it conversationally and daily, has become set aside (reserved) for the Church’s prayers. Latin, in a sense, has become holy (set apart, and in this case for serving God).

—–4) Next, it is true demons use fear to destroy us. When we fear, we tend to forget we are actually loved, actually guarded and prized by God and all Heaven. Many of us would do things exactly as the characters in the film: run, hide, scream, cry… and we should! But we should run to Christ! Hide in God’s light! Scream for the Lord’s mercy! Cry to the saints to pray with us, for us, to the Holy Spirit! Demons want us to be so afraid that we forget God, that we doubt He can help, that we dismiss His presence and focus on the demons and the crisis. Instead, we must turn to God immediately. As soon as trouble starts, and even before it starts, whip out your faith and call on Our Father who art in Heaven. In the film, we see Lorraine bust out her rosary when things get crazy. Don’t pay the demon any attention, but shower your gaze on Jesus, invite the Holy Spirit to nuke the sins and the demons. Get into the habit of using troubles as reminders to pray.Be Fearless

—–5) And at last, Janet, the star of the film, says something subtly profound at the end. After the literal Hell she has been dragged through by the demon, she believes she is so lucky! She actually says, “I’m so lucky!” and is not being sarcastic! She sees that all the terrors have been a way for God to lead her to love, to lead her to know two amazing and faithful friends in Lorraine and Ed. The evil was wicked and deadly, but God somehow knows how to work the horrors for Janet and her family’s benefit in the end. This is also true for the Warrens, when we see them realize that God has given Lorraine her gifts, and has allowed her to see the terrifying visions in order to help her save Ed and Janet from death. Most importantly, it must be said that we believe God never causes any evil, but He does permit evil to happen when we humans or when spirits (angelic or demonic) choose to commit evil out of our own free will. He might limit some of the consequences of our sins, out of His mercy, but He does permit us to use our free will, and only He knows how to set things up for our benefit. We must trust Him and do our best to do His will. To find out why God would take such a risk to let us have free will, please see this post.the_conjuring_-_uk_1757631a

—–And about the first Conjuring film: there was one line that jumped out at me. The mother in the film, after learning that the demon harassing her is the damned spirit of a woman who murdered her own child, says: “What kind of mother would kill her own children?” As soon as I heard this, I thought immediately of the millions of children aborted because their parents did not want them, did not love them enough to share life with them. The numbers are sobering: over 55 million children in America have been aborted since 1973, over 336 million Chinese babies have been aborted since the 1980s. And if you don’t really know what an abortion is and how traumatizing and violent it is for the mother and child, please see the abortion procedures here. So the question from the first film is actually pointing a finger at us as a nation, as a culture: what kind of society kills its own children?

—–The Conjuring 2 was a treat. It’s rare in film to see faith presented, the Church respected, and at the same time not in a cheesy lame way. I am grateful I got to see the film, and to share my thoughts. May God bless you and all those involved in the film in any way. Amen!

—–For a thoughtful and much more thorough review, please see Dcn. Steven Greydanus’ here.patrickwilsonconjuring2

Child Will Miss This

Child will miss this,
Will miss wind on her skin,
Miss this air lifting her cries,
Whisping her voice to the skies.

Child will miss sun on her hair,
Warming each strand
As Mother’s hands braid
And comb them into a crown.

Dad will miss the sound
Of Child’s laughter,
The only sound that
Blooms into music in life hereafter.

Child will miss Brother and Sister,
Will miss the rivalry
And the revelry of sharing
Family together.

Child will miss this world
As much as the world is deprived
Of who Child could have been
If only Child had not died
While yet inside

Mother misses Child,
As her tears have testified.
And Dad prays for Child,
Never to neglect.

Brother and Sister neither forget
Their friend,
Though they have never met,
They long a reunion

Perhaps in dream and pondering,
Merely wandering their fantasies
At who Child could have been
If Child were named rather than maimed.

Child will miss herself,
Will miss discovering her life
And miss knowing the love
We were meant to give her.

 

Evan Pham – May 12, 2016 – In honor and memory of children, motherhood, fatherhood, and siblinghood lost to abortion.

make room for Room

With all the films one can choose from, it takes a bit of effort to find movies worth viewing and reviewing. Today, allow me to recommend that you make room for “Room.” Here are my reasons why (besides being this year’s top Toronto International Film Fest’s fan fave):

room_poster.jpg



SPOILER ALERT


—–1) There’s a scene when Joy (the mother) decides to tell her son, Jack, the truth about their situation and home (which they call “Room”). This part is perhaps the most difficult to watch, because here Joy is, sharing the truth about how she was tricked, kidnapped, imprisoned and enslaved for seven years inside a backyard shed. As she shares this vulnerable and honest story, Jack, because he was told lies all his life (he is five years old at this point) about Room, the world and his mother and the rapist, does not believe her. Jack refuses to believe and throws a tantrum, even saying that he “hates her story.” Joy tries to convince her son that the world is so much bigger, grander than Room. But he denies it. He hates it.

It was at this scene I realized that we are not so different. So often, we forget how much bigger and grander the world is. We forget that there is more we do not know than of what we do know. I imagine God trying to convince us that He made us for so much more than the daily grind, the paycheck to paycheck, the latest fad and the trend of the year. He made us to live forever, and to be satisfied only with things that last forever: everlasting love, endless beauty, unlimiting truth, and eternal goodness. Who does not want that?

But instead, we deny it. We hate it. We go back to what we know and what we’re used to. We go back to a world we can control, a world we can create, buy, and sell, instead of entrusting ourselves into the adventure He customized for each of us. We go back to the lust, the ugly, the lies, and the greed. We lock ourselves up in our Room and hate His story.
Another movie that echoes this is the Matrix, where some cannot handle the truth and prefer to live a lie.

—–2) When a TV station interviews Joy, the interviewer asks if she had ever thought of telling Jack who his biological father is (the rapist). Joy’s response is great (paraphrased): “That man is not his father. A father is someone who loves and nurtures. Jack belongs to me, and only to me.”
She is absolutely right, but sadly there are many men out there who are ready to make children, but not father children. They leave their children, they leave their women, they leave so they can live as they please instead of loving and caring for their responsibilities. This standard also goes for mothers, of course, but I thought it was well said in the movie.Room.jpg

—–3) Finally, the fact that Joy not only kept her child, but nursed and nurtured him, but taught and raised him shows how right such a decision is! The thought of aborting Jack or abandoning him was impossible to Joy, inconceivable to her. She is horrified at the idea when it comes up. She explains that because of Jack, her whole life changed, her whole experience of Room changed, and that she was saved because of Jack. Her son gave her life a purpose, a meaning, a motivation: to live for someone else, to live to love another. Even though the way her child came to be was sinful and evil, Jack himself is an innocent person. The crime belongs to the rapist only. And every child is a powerful addition to the family, to all humankind. We should not judge someone because of what his parents did, nor because of where he came from, nor how he came to be. Instead, we value him because of him! And because of Him, the God Who created him!

—–4) This film is not an easy one to watch, but it is a powerful two-hours. Here’s the trailer:

Justin Bieber, Beethoven, and their Mommies

Crescendo

At first I wanted to write more about this (hint: it has something to do with Pattie Mallette (Justin Bieber’s mother) and Beethoven and his mother, too… you know you wanna know!), but I’m not going to spoil it anymore for you. Just see for yourself (well worth your 15 minutes!):

And now read this article from Legatus Magazine to find out more.

Hand in the Sand

[Yesterday, January 22nd was the 41st annual March for Life protesting against the legalized massacre of American children, motherhood, fatherhood, sisterhood and brotherhood. In honor and memory of the dead, may I share… Hand in the Sand:]

I thought I found a long lost sister, but it was only her hand. When I crouched down to touch her fingers, they were cold and wet and looked too red – like a steamed lobster.

My friend and I were at the river to skip stones. He said he knew how, but we quit after our arms got tired from trying. We started walking down along the sandy river bank, getting closer to the bridge, searching for more perfect stones while letting our throwing arms rest. That was when I found her hand.

Hand in the SandAt first I thought it was some kind of seaweed, or coral. I told my friend but he said people don’t even fish in the river, how could there be seaweed if there’s not even fish? I didn’t know the answer so I ignored him and picked up the red flesh. It fit completely into my left palm. It felt like the strawberry jelly I ate for lunch.

I realized it was a little hand when I saw its small outline mirror my thumb and fingers. My friend realized too and shouted, “Someone lost a hand!”

Not knowing what else to do, I held onto it and looked around the shore. City traffic was above our heads, cars making wind while they hurried over the steel bridge. My friend poked at the hand and pointed to the skinny blue strings inside. They looked like my blue strings, but mine were thicker.

A dead tree stuck its roots out into the river, maybe dead because the bridge hid the sun now. Caught in the tangle of roots was a clump of plastic bags. I wanted to use one to carry the hand home. My friend reached out to snatch a bag but it was filled and tied tight. He grabbed another one that was emptier and dumped the trash out. When he saw hands hit the sand, he dropped the bag and backed away. I couldn’t stop staring.

One time my dad took me to the hospital because my stomach hurt so much. Around my wrist, the nurse put a blue bracelet that had my name, birthday, and numbers I don’t remember anymore. I asked my dad if I could keep it because blue was my favorite color.

I couldn’t stop staring because blue was my favorite color, and there were so many bracelets. I crouched down to look at the bracelets, but they were around little legs. I thought the toes were fingers but now I could see, and I could see names, birthdays, and so many numbers.

The first word my parents ever taught me to write was my surname – Wu. They said it was important, and that anyone else with Wu was long lost family. I was just happy because Wu was easier to write than others.

WuSo Wu was easy for me to recognize on the stained anklet. I found my friend’s name too and told him to come see, but he wouldn’t. He told me to stop touching the babies. I said why would anyone put babies in bags? They’re just hands and legs.

I put down the jelly hand and began to pull the blue anklets off the legs. Now I could finally start wearing mine and not worry about losing it.

After collecting four anklets – all clasped around my arm – I tugged the bag aside to see if there were more legs. I saw a butt and laughed.

“It’s a butt!” I said to my friend. I peeled the thick plastic away and noticed the words on the bag. I asked my friend if he knew what medical refuse meant, but when I looked up he was already running away. I looked back down and saw a pink face beside the pink butt. This time I didn’t laugh. I couldn’t even if it was somehow funny.

I covered the face with the bag and looked in the other bags for more anklets. Before I went home that day I had more than sixteen. I washed them in the river because I knew my mom didn’t like dirty things, but when I showed them to her she still said they were dirty and threw them all away – even the Wu one.

I went back to the river the next day to find more but the police told me to go home. They were busy cleaning up and digging around the dead tree.

An officer from the local health bureau carries dead babies found dumped in a river on the outskirts of Jining, Shandong province, March 30, 2010. REUTERS/Stringer

1st Edition – Mar 31, 2010: Inspired by a true tragedy.

© 2010 Evan Pham