Saturday, March 9, 2024

Why E.T. always makes me cry

I would probably be considered an R.E.M. Relatively emotional male. I've known this since at least 1982, when I first saw E.T. The Extra Terrestrial. This movie - my fourth favorite of all time - has consistently made me heavily cry each of the 15 to 20 times I've seen it.

The stretch from when the "man on the moon" arrives at Elliot's house - in hazmat suits - through until the end of the film pretty much has me in a mess. And it did again this week, when I watched it with my kids.

Digging deep to try to understand myself, here are some of the spots in E.T. that seem to dig themselves into my heartstrings:

  • From the very start, E.T. is lost in a faraway land. He's scared and he's harmless. But people don't know that he's harmless, with even Elliot letting out a few good screams into the alien's face before becoming incredibly confortable with him. As we get to know E.T., we see his longing and pain to get reunited with his space buddies.
  • I could also relate to Elliot's world. He was the kid brother like myself who not only had to deal with his older brother but with his dad having run away to Mexico with his new girlfriend. My parents also got divorced when I was about the same age as Elliot. Director Steven Spielberg too says he created the movie based on the imaginary friend he had after his own parents' divorce.
  • The friendship between E.T. and Elliot is definitely heartwarming in and of itself, especially seeing how Elliot doesn't seem to have much of a network of friends for support like his older brother does.
  • E.T.'s growing ability to speak and communicate with Elliot and his brother and sister is part of it, and when the alien begins to rapidly blurt out phrases like "E.T. phone home," it's a mixture of hilarious and heartwarming.
  • It's odd that the government agents would contribute to my emotions, but they do add a layer of "bad guy" and some scariness to the story, as we have no idea what they might do to semi-defenseless little E.T.
  • Of course, in the scenes when we know Elliot must let go of his new friendship, it is probably the hardest to take, even if we know deep down that their relationship has to end somehow.
  • It can't be forgotten that all the bike riding by the kids harkens back to serious memories of childhood. Like the characters in the Valley outside Los Angeles, I rode everywhere around my town outside of St. Louis to get everywhere.
  • Finally, the music by John Williams is big, awesome symphonic stuff similar to Raiders of the Lost Ark and Star Wars, and I connected it a lot with the music in Alfred Hitchcock films, many of which are my very favorites in cinemal history.
There now, I've said it. Want to make me cry? E.T.'s got all the ingredients necessary.

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