By Herman M. Lagon
IN MY previous columns, we have explored some of the most remarkable cinematic gems, from “Magnifico” to “The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.” Today, we delve into the captivating world of my Top 2 favorite movie of all time, “Forrest Gump.” What makes this film stand out from others? Let us explore its unique qualities in production, story, cinematography, musical score, and acting.
Directed by Robert Zemeckis and based on Winston Groom’s novel, “Forrest Gump” is a critically acclaimed film, sweeping six Oscars in 1994, including Best Picture, Best Actor for Tom Hanks, and Best Director for Robert Zemeckis. The story follows Forrest Gump, a man with a below-average I.Q., through significant moments in American history. Raised with love and wisdom by his single mother, Forrest’s journey spans from being a fast runner and football hero, to a war hero in Vietnam, and later a champion ping-pong player and successful shrimper.
Amid the societal changes of the 60s and 70s, Forrest’s unwavering optimism and his deep-rooted love for childhood friend Jenny—an abused girl who turns into a self-destructive woman who samples the worst excesses of drug counterculture—remain constant. Gump remains faithful to her over the years until she blesses him with the best gift of all. His pure-hearted nature and unyielding love, devotion, and joy testify to the power of embracing the “holy fool” within.
Forrest’s character embodies innocence, purity of heart, and a genuine outlook on life. His mother’s famous words, “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get” and “You have to do the best with what God gave you,” encapsulate the film’s recurring theme of life’s unpredictability and how one navigates its uncertainties.
The film’s exploration of destiny versus free will is thought-provoking. It raises the question: Are our paths predestined, or do we shape our fate? Forrest’s life journey intersects with significant historical events and figures, showcasing how larger societal happenings can profoundly influence individual lives. This interaction with history highlights the impact of historical events, reminding us of their significance in shaping our lives.
“Forrest Gump” is also a poignant tale of love and devotion, particularly Forrest’s unwavering love for Jenny, played by Robin Wright. Despite their different paths, Forrest’s commitment to Jenny remains steadfast, underscoring the enduring power of love. His relationships with Bubba and Lieutenant Dan emphasize the importance of genuine friendship and how it can challenge, shape, and benefit us in unique ways.
Perseverance and determination are evident throughout the film as Forrest embarks on remarkable endeavors like running across the country and starting a shrimping business. His story demonstrates that with determination and perseverance, one can overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges.
The film’s portrayal of the Vietnam War offers a poignant perspective on the effects of war, both physical and psychological. Characters like Lieutenant Dan embody the trauma inflicted upon soldiers, while the cultural rifts caused by the war resonate with the audience.
Forrest’s intellectual and physical challenges highlight the film’s theme of disability and potential. Jenny prodding him to “Run, Forrest run” is not just an encouragement for Forrest to break free from his leg braces but a line that becomes symbolic of his ability to break through challenges. Despite his limitations, he achieves extraordinary feats, reminding us that everyone, regardless of their obstacles, has the potential to impact the world positively.
Through Forrest’s life journey, we witness the passage of time, reflecting the evolution of culture, politics, and society from the 1950s to the 1980s. This passage of time emphasizes life’s transient nature and the enduring constants like love, friendship, and morality.
Why are these themes significant? Because they resonate universally. “Forrest Gump” touches on fundamental human experiences and emotions. It weaves these big ideas into a singular narrative, offering a reflective journey that speaks to audiences about love, fate, history, and the human spirit. It is a testament to the movie’s enduring appeal and its continued relevance in pop culture discourse.
The film has memorable lines, such as Forrest’s mother’s famous quote about chocolates and “Mama always said, stupid is as stupid does.” These lines have become iconic because they encapsulate key elements of Forrest’s character and the film’s broader themes. Indeed, intelligence is not solely measured by academic process, but by one’s actions and character. Forrest, despite his limited cognitive abilities, consistently makes morally right choices.
Forrest Gump, as a character, exemplifies a contemporary holy fool—a man whose heart is pure, whose actions are selfless, and whose outlook on life is untainted by the complexities of the world. His journey and description of himself as “I’m not a smart man… but I know what love is” serve as a reminder that true greatness lies not in intelligence or ambition but in kindness, love, and the ability to navigate life’s unpredictability with grace.
“Forrest Gump” reminds us that even if “shit happens,” life is still full of surprises and unexpected treasures. This film is a guiding light, encouraging us to embrace life’s uncertainties, cherish love and friendship, and persevere through all challenges. It is a testament to the enduring power of the human spirit and the timeless appeal of a story well-told.
Doc H fondly describes himself as a ‘student of and for life’ who, like many others, aspires to a life-giving and why-driven world that is grounded in social justice and the pursuit of happiness. His views herewith do not necessarily reflect those of the institutions he is employed or connected with.