“There are some fish that cannot be caught. It’s not that they’re faster or stronger than other fish, they’re just touched by something extra”
My favourite Tim Burton film is a breathtaking story of a father’s quest to find his own identity – through the eyes of his son.
Big Fish begins with an overview of life with this father, Ed Bloom, (younger version played by Ewan McGregor) and his frustrated, frankly drained son, Will (Billy Crudup) – drained because of the constant stories his father tells, at any given opportunity. Throughout the course of the film, Ed’s stories include fighting with the town’s biggest fish to retrieve his fiancé’s wedding ring, discovering a secret hamlet in the middle of a forest, joining a Vietnamese circus, and a whole host of stunning adventures. But, after Ed’s speech on Will’s wedding night, Will says: “I’m a footnote in that story dad, the context for your great adventure. Which never happened, incidentally – you were selling novelty products in Wichita the day I was born.”
Big Fish is about the importance of the blurring between fact and fiction, reality and myth, and Burton does a fantastic job of making these boundaries transient. In the process, Burton creates a world in which fact really does blur with fiction; so much so, that when I first watched it, I thought it was a great comment on the nature of realists and optimists.
In our everyday lives, is it such a bad thing to blur “reality” and “fiction”?
Why can’t the realists of the world take some time to think about the billions of possibilities our actions could truly have on our lives?
What’s important to remember in almost everything we do, consume, participate in and also, everything we are, has an incredibly deep root – historic, even. The way we choose to style our hair (if at all), the way we dress, the manner in which we talk, even the simple words we say have a root that goes far beyond our daily lives, and the context in which we use them.
This was the most beautiful part of Big Fish for me, essentially a story about an optimistic father and his conflicts with his realist son. Why can’t we have optimistic realists? As we’re quite literally submerged in Ed’s stories, both of these men attempt to reconcile their views and feelings of each other and in the process, unlock another realm. The simple phenomenon of understanding, Burton’s film shows, obliterates the concept of “reality” as we know it.
Taking a post-modernist stance, it’s also important to remember that the concept of “truth” is entirely relative and fluid as the tides. What is true to me, may be entirely false to you. This is usually because of perspective and viewing the world from different circumstances. Big Fish is an adventure where the audience learn the power of what it is to live, love and search for what makes us happy.
“In telling the story of my father’s life, it is impossible to separate fact from fiction – the man from the myth”
- Not usually one for fantasy films, I found Big Fish to be a gloriously simple allegory of what it is to be alive and find ourselves, through the people we meet
- Explores a fragile parent/child relationship that I’ve not been able to find since
- Despite all the fantasy, mysticism and downright kookiness, Big Fish is actually realistic in its portrayal of the power human connection.
- Ewan McGregor’s generic Southern accent
A truly wonderful and heart-warming adventure depicting a man’s life through the eyes of his child, Big Fish takes us to the heart of what it is to truly understand our parents and their history. I won’t hesitate to put this film on for my children’s bedtime; a film that could have been made by a very precocious 10-year-old or, a wandering and nostalgic adult.