I've been thinking about family and ancestors a lot lately.
My father is dying of cancer (f**k cancer) and even though we've had a fraught relationship our entire lives, somehow—ironically, unexpectedly—our difficult relationship seems to matter less at this stage. But when I think about my dad, I also inevitably think about my beloved granddad, my mother's father, who was my de facto father. He died only a few years ago when I was already living far away in England. I somehow managed to completely erase from my memory the circumstances of his passing. I missed his funeral. I also don't recall the moment when my mother called to let me know nor how I sobbed into my sister's ears over the phone although both reassure me those things did happen. I worry I will miss these things when the time comes for my father.
I've been thinking about family and ancestors a lot lately—probably as a result of watching and rewatching multiple times one movie recently: Coco, the most recent Disney/Pixar showing.
Coco is an extraordinary movie. It is nothing like the trailer—it is a lot more than that. A story about a young boy whose family have a difficult relationship with music because of an ancestor who broke the heart of a great-great-grandmother years and years ago when he left to pursue a music career. The family has completely erased that ancestor from memory, going as far as removing his picture from the family altar—something that has great significance to the plot. Miguel, the young boy protagonist just happens to love music beyond anything and is willing to fight for it, even break his family’s heart over it.
Coco is set in Mexico and it takes place during El Día de Los Muertos when families gather to pray to ancestors. The twist here is that on the other side, the ancestors expect that day just as much as it gives them a chance to cross over to our side so they can visit the living. But ONLY those whose family remembers—by placing mementos or pictures on their altar—can do the crossing. Everybody else is just waiting to fade away completely. Something that happens to everybody sooner or later.
When Miguel is trapped on the other side by virtue of “movie magic”, he is given two choices after he meets up with his dead family over there: accept their blessing in order to go back to life (easy, but that blessing has a caveat: he has to promise to never think of music again) OR go find the lost ancestor, someone Miguel knows will understand his love for music.
What happens next is a beautiful journey that will make Miguel, as well as his family, rethink their actions and their choices. Both sides will learn new lessons and find common ground. But as well as a movie about family, ancestry and forgiveness, Coco is also, and perhaps most importantly, a movie about memory.
The only person who still thinks of and remembers Miguel's lost ancestor is Miguel's great-grandmother Coco, arguably the most important character in the movie because without her, her memory and her enduring love, the ancestor—her papa—would have passed on and faded away completely already.
I've been thinking about family, ancestors—and about memory—a lot lately. I've been thinking how my own complicated feelings for my father or my faulty memory with regards to my grandfather may impact what comes next. And it's no wonder. Coco is a movie with a very Latin American sensibility about families and grandparents in a way that is very recognizable to me, a Brazilian.
Coco is a wonderful fantastical movie. It's a beautifully made, visually stunning and with an amazing soundtrack. The actors and most of the creators are Latin American, which is super great. It made me (re)think family, ancestors and my own relationship with my own papa. As much as I loved it, it really messed me up.
In Booksmugglerish: 10 out of 10