Ashley (@luvthispayne) reflects on A Wrinkle in Time‘s portrayal of father-daughter relationships and the message of hope for girls (and women) of color seeking reconciliation.
Well this isn’t so much a review as much as it is an opinion piece about some feelings the film stirred deep within me on my second watch. Where to start? My parents divorced very early in my life. Up until the time of their marital demise, I had grown accustomed to having two active parents in my life. I was most like my father. Inquisitive, talkative, affectionate, and loving. I can lovingly reflect back on the many adventures we shared together when I was little girl and they each warm my heart. But divorce can turn love into heartbreak, especially for a child that cannot comprehend how a once very active part of her life goes missing.
If you’re reading this, I am sure you have likely already been to the theater to see A Wrinkle In Time. The film, based on Madeleine L’Engle’s novel, gave me a much different lesson than the one I read in the book and even a different take away from what I’d seen the first time inside the theater. On my second watch, I saw two strangely familiar people, my father and I. I was Meg Murray.
In the film adaptation Meg Murray, was a very bright young girl, the child of two remarkable scientist parents. Her parents were working on a way to time travel. Unbeknownst to Meg, her mother, or her brother, her father figured out a way to do just that and he vanished. After growing up her entire young life with the father she knew, loved, and imitated, in an instant he was gone. In her tender teenage years the damage was immediately visible and the heartache was unyielding. Meg was now and would be forever changed by the sudden disappearance of her father. In the book, Meg’s father’s disappearance seemed more accidental than intentional, however, in the film it seemed that for a moment Dr. Murray had a choice and he chose to try and “shake hands with the universe” rather than stay with his family. The distinction of accident versus intention matters greatly.
After the disappearance of her father, Meg began to perform poorly in school. She didn’t perform poorly because she was incapable but because she lacked enthusiasm. She didn’t care what people thought or said about her. More importantly, she didn’t really care about herself. As a child, especially one close to the teenage years, it is nearly impossible not to take the absence of a parent as a personal attack. As children we are unable to understand that our parents’ desires, failings, and shortcomings are not testament to our intrinsic worth. We do not understand that a parent’s choice to be absent is not a reflection of our own value. It is difficult to unlink the two.
These feelings of diminished value due to an absentee parent manifest in various ways such as decreased self-esteem or confidence. Repeatedly, we saw this trait in Meg as she struggled to tesser. She could not grasp the act of tessering because she had yet to grapple with her very poor belief in herself. She had yet to face the root of her feelings of unworthiness. An unworthiness that stemmed from the disappearance of her father. I, too have been Meg suffering from overwhelming insecurities stemming from the heartache brought on by the man that once promised he’d love me forever but reneged.
In a turn of very fortunate events and by sheer will, Meg finally gets that moment that she has desired since the day her father went missing 4 years prior; reunification.
The scene where Meg was reunited with her father is one of the most crushingly beautiful and heartbreaking scenes I have ever witnessed in film. Storm Reid really did a phenomenal job and her talent cannot be understated. She conveyed masterfully grief and joy. Her father was back in her life. While I certainly shed a tear the first time I saw this scene, there was an entirely different flood of tears that I had an immensely difficult time stopping on my second viewing. What was it about this scene that made me so sad? Why in the world was I this emotional when I knew exactly what was coming this time around? The answer was I saw myself and so many of the other Meg Murrays whose fathers had disappeared but we never got a reconciliation.
Remember when I mentioned earlier that the distinction between accident and intention matter. It is a different type of hurt and loss that is felt when a parent dies or is taken from our lives by forces beyond their control. It is a very unique and distinct type of pain and abandonment that is felt when a parent CHOOSES to leave. The intentional act of removing yourself from the life of a child you’ve had a chance to know plants seeds of self-doubt and worthlessness in the mind of said child. Speaking from experience, as a child it was impossible not to think “how could my parent leave me, there must be something wrong with me.”
As an adult who has grown and matured, I fully understand the folly in this line of thinking. In some ways, I even understand that life is difficult and messy and parents don’t always do the right thing or make the correct or best choices. So then, what happens to all the little Meg Murrays who will never have that moment where they are reunited with their father and he apologizes for thinking that anything in the universe could be better than being present during the life of his daughter?
What do we do with all the beautiful black girls whose fathers never realize the gravity of their error and comes running back with a heart full of apologies and a desire to spend a lifetime making amends?
This review is for them, for every single one of the girls who kept hope aflame believing that one day her father would step into the role and be the man she always believed he could be. This is for every father-daughter dance that she never got a chance to attend and the talks about heartbreak she never had with her Dad.
Sometimes reconciliation doesn’t come and maybe he never becomes the father you hoped for but that does not make you any less wonderful, beautiful and worthy of love. To quote Mrs. Which, “Do you realize how many events, choices, that had to occur since the birth of the universe leading up to the making of you? Just exactly the way you are.” You’re perfect. You are splendid and divine. You are whole. You can even save the universe if you are just crazy enough to believe you can. This is not to say that the absence won’t hurt and there won’t exist a longing for a relationship that you were promised by your birth, but despite that pain be bold and assured that your life can be glorious and filled with joy and magic. Flower child of mine.
A Wrinkle in Time is now playing in theaters and IMAX.