When bonds of love become broken or altered, we strive to restore them.
Sam and Suzy were drawn to each other at first sight. In a matter of seconds, their hearts connected; just as circumstances beyond their control separated them. They shared their feelings through secret letters and created a sanctuary from the barren emotional landscapes of their separate worlds. Sam and Suzy’s desire for closeness contrasts with the melancholic deprivation of the adults responsible for them. They plan to escape the isolation of this ordinary world and create a special place of their own.
Wes Andersen’s “Moonrise Kingdom” (2012) is about a small world where big events occur. Suzy and Sam, the central characters in this magical movie, powerfully influence others in a multitude of ways. I recently presented this film to my group psychotherapy colleagues at our local Cinema Series to illustrate aspects of group theory as well as the healing power of group. “Moonrise Kingdom” reflects the safe holding space of our therapy groups, small worlds where life-changing experiences can happen.
Sam and Suzy are kindred spirits, caught in the proscribed confines of the status quo. Sam, an orphan stuck in foster care, relies on his scouting skills, as reflected by the merit badges covering his shirt. Suzy, trapped in a discordant family, clings to her music, the heroines in her books, and her kitten. They hunger for a known but almost-forgotten feeling: acceptance. Their courage launches a “hero’s journey” of tests, enemies, and allies. Sam and Suzy’s adventure affirms the power of their love and ultimately transforms their world.
We encounter Sam and Suzy in an open field ready to embark on their secret life together. Sam wears his scout uniform with pride. Tucked among his badges is his mother’s brooch, a poignant sign of her love and his loss. His coonskin hat and corncob pipe complete his eccentric ensemble. His expertly packed gear rests comfortably on his back conveying the competence of his budding maturity. Suzy’s gaze at Sam from under her stylized blue eye-shadowed lids is steady and suggests a worldly sophistication as she accepts his bouquet of wild-flowers. Binoculars hang from her neck. A record player, records, a suitcase filled with books and a basket carrying her kitten are precariously balanced upon her small frame. They embark on a two-day hike and, after a series of mishaps, arrive at their new home, a beautiful remote cove. Sam efficiently and expertly sets up camp as music from Suzy’s portable record player embraces them. They swim, dance, play and then sleep under the stars of Moonrise Kingdom.
A dangerous storm is brewing. A search party has been dispatched. Heedless of the impending danger, Suzy and Sam continue to evade the adults’ attempts to restrain their intentions. They persevere and proclaim their love. It isn’t until Sam and Suzy approach life-threatening danger that the adults recognize their love as real. Their truth awakens the adults’ desire for real connections. As their melancholic fog dissipates, tender bonds are forged. Sam and Suzy welcome the thoughtful boundaries designed to nurture them without eclipsing their love.
The adults in Sam and Suzy’s lives have failed them. Our heroes move away from this disappointment, trusting in their own idealism. The brewing storm represents unresolved ruptures the adults must face. Withstanding this crisis supports real connections.
James Kavanaugh’s poem mirrors Sam and Suzy’s acceptance of each other in “Moonrise Kingdom.”
To love is not to possess,
To own or imprison,
Nor to lose one’s self in another.
Love is to join and separate,
To walk alone and together,
To find a laughing freedom
That lonely isolation does not permit.
It is finally to be able
To be who we really are
No longer clinging in childish dependency
Nor docilely living separate lives in silence,
It is to be perfectly one’s self
And perfectly joined in permanent commitment
To another–and to one’s inner self.
Love only endures when it moves like waves,
Receding and returning gently or passionately,
Or moving lovingly like the tide
In the moon’s own predictable harmony,
Because finally, despite a child’s scars
Or an adult’s deepest wounds,
They are openly free to be
Who they really are–and always secretly were,
In the very core of their being
Where true and lasting love can alone abide.
Happy Valentine’s Day