Reviewing the Review


I like to look through the newspaper on Saturdays and Sundays to find out what is going on in our area and make appropriate plans. I usually don't read the movie reviews very often - rare is the day when I actually agree with one; the main reason for that being that I usually demand a happy ever after of some sort. I get enough "gritty reality" in day to day life, in my fantasy world I like things to turn out awesome every time.

For some reason, though, I found myself reading the review for the second Nanny McPhee movie. My kids loved the first movie, and I'm pretty sure we'll be seeing the second one (albeit on Netflix rather than mortgaging our home further for a night at the theater). I was truly interested to learn that the plot of the new movie includes a father away at war.

That sounds like something my kids will definitely relate to - and something that we don't often find done in an engaging and child-appropriate manner. I also think, judging from their partiality to the children in the Narnia movies and Sarah in A Little Princess, it's something that my children want to see more of. As I read the review, though, something interesting jumped out at me.

In the words of the Washington Post reviewer:

There are mature themes about the possibility of losing a father in war, and magical Nanny McPhee, with her facial warts, bad teeth, black garb, thudding cane and burping crow companion, could scare some kids 6 and younger.

I have never considered having a father away at war a "mature theme."

That doesn't mean that I think the reviewer was wrong to label it as such, or that I have my unmentionables in a bunch over the fact that the warning was thrown in there. I had just never thought of it in that way because that's really the only mental state my children have ever known. And it just is for them. Our Venn diagram overlaps the civilian one in some places, but I think that this is one place where there is no meeting.

Once again, I don't mean that in a bad way. I think that many civilians are tremendously sensitive to the life military families are living while our country is at war. I live in a civilian neighborhood right now, and the amount of support I was given during Air Force Guy's latest deployment was simply incredible. I had people to fix electrical issues that showed up in my house on a moment's notice and without charge. I had people to check on me, and my children's coaches and sports teams were aware of our situation and made huge allowances for the activities I could participate in. I could never have survived the last year without going completely insane without their unwavering support.

But I think that the emotional toll and the things we must do to survive at home during deployments just can't be translated, they can't truly be understood, unless it is a shared experience. The horror and -even worse and to my vast humiliation- the pity in some of the looks I get when something big goes down down-range show that gulf. The "I don't know how you do it!" and "I could never do that!" comments, the sudden quiet of a conversation about the war when my children are noticed to be in ear-shot... They all line up exactly with the review of Nanny McPhee Returns: a mature theme.

When to us, it is just life. And there is comfort for us and for our children in seeing someone else who is living that life as well.

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