“Can Movies Bring Back the Dead?”: An Essay on Grief and Film

My dad died when I was ten, and I’ve been trying to find the best way back to him ever since. Cinema has always been that best way. A movie theatre is a chance to experience the emotions public life demands we repress, emotions like grief. It can be hard to do that anywhere else, in a world that does not welcome the discussion of death. But luckily, movie theatres are open spaces. I go to the movies, and I feel closer to my dad. Today, I can see his influence in all my favorite films.

I know, for instance, that it was my dad’s death that fueled my childhood obsession with space movies, like J.J Abram’s Star Trek franchise. In those movies, I was hoping to find the peace in uncertainty: If space had no limits, perhaps life did not either. I know that in recent years, I have begun learning how to try on film character’s fathers the way I try on shoes. When I saw Eighth Grade a few years ago, I spent the entire movie wondering if my father and I would have danced through my adolescence in the same way the protagonist and hers do.

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