The first thing I wanted to do after watching The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was to hug my children. To love and be loved is the greatest of human treasures and not one to be taken for granted.
As I am sure you will all know by now, Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt) is born as an infant who has the body of an 80-year old and eventually dies as an 80 year old, looking like an infant. In between he ages backwards, peaking in his 50s, 40s and 30s before the inevitable decline of reverse-childhood.
A consequence of this peculiarity however is that Benjamin finds himself alone at many times in his life. His mother died giving birth to him. His father, from rage and grief at losing his wife and gaining an abomination, abandon’s his son on the steps of an old folks home, run by Queenie.
It is here that Benjamin experiences his first and sustaining life force, the love of a mother. Queenie raises him as his own son, “he’s one of the Lord’s children, after all” she declares. Being a boy in an old man’s body Benjamin does not look so out of place amongst the residents of Queenie’s home. Years later after Benjamin is reunited with his birth father, he resolutely maintains that she is his mother and cares nothing for his real father’s business or family history.
His second significant relationship occurs with Daisy – a granddaughter of one of Queenie’s residents, who comes to visit during school holidays. She recognises that Benjamin is a fine playmate, despite his appearance, and it commences a long and lasting love and chase that sustains the film.
The strength of this movie is not the curiosity of an elderly man who ages in reverse. It is the subtly and nuance of two people who age and change and make choices in their life. Choices that will benefit them, and others that will hinder. We are each faced with opportunity to make what we will of our lives. There are moments when we must take risks either in love, or in business or a myriad of other interactions. The net result is two characters for whom we care for and the end of their lives is a moving one for us because we have invested so heavily in their experience.
It is an interesting reflection for me that as Benjamin and Daisy’s ages ‘meet’ in their 40’s, their relationship is robust and strong and passionate. Perhaps in the prime of our lives we all only have a certain number of years to enjoy before other interests or priorities or the inevitable infirmities of age take us away from this time.
Benjamin Button is telling us in no uncertain terms to make the most of what life we have. It won’t last forever - it never does.
Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett play their roles well as do all other support roles. Pitt is entirely convincing as a naïve, child-like old man as he is a wise and experienced young man. Blanchett similarly is apt as a carefree artiste in her early years and a bittersweet mature woman in her latter years.
The makeup and prosthetic team associated with this picture deserve a special mention also; expect to seem them listed in Oscar nominations next month. 3 out of 5.