May 7, 2018
By Ekta R. Garg
We all have those movies or videos we watched as kids that made a deep impression. One of the earliest for me was Michael Jackson’s Thriller. I loved the music, but watching him turn into a werewolf freaked me out just a little bit.
Twice I watched movies that my parents disapproved of without their knowledge (sorry, Mom and Dad.) The first was Gremlins; the second was Child’s Play. To this day I can’t think of the former without shuddering at the memory of the blender scene or the latter without remembering that creepy doll’s eyes and the way he cocks his head to say, “I thought we were friends to the end.”
I don’t think either Eleven or Nine have seen movies that scared them. I do know that Nine watched a movie she swore off. A movie she said she’d never watch again, that she resisted with the adamant attitude one normally finds in toddlers.
A movie she saw when she was only 5 years old.
For the full story on what happened, you can visit the original Chart. Here’s the short version: At the age of 5, Nine watched the movie Hachi on a road trip and cried because she found it too sad. The movie is based on the true story of the Japanese dog, Hachi, and his owner who was a professor. The professor took the train to work every day, and Hachi would go to the station and wait for the professor to come home. One day the professor died while at work and didn’t come back. Hachi kept going back to the train station anyway for nearly 10 years.
The movie starred Richard Gere and was set in Rhode Island but kept most of the facts the same. It was really well done, and I understood at the time why it affected Nine so much. Our resident animal lover just couldn’t bear the thought of an animal dying, even if it happened due to old age.
She couldn’t bear it so much, in fact, that she refused to watch the film anytime any of us mentioned it. That changed this past weekend, however. Nearly five years after watching it the first time, Nine saw the movie again.
It started when she came downstairs on Sunday after her shower asking permission to watch TV while she waited for lunch. She had a particular movie in mind—The Secret of Kells—which Netflix doesn’t stream. Instead the movie service made several recommendations, one of which was Hachi.
“Why don’t you watch it?” I asked Nine, fully expecting her to dig in her heels yet again.
“Fine, I will,” she said with an ill-concealed grumble.
She surprised me but I didn’t say anything, just went back to the kitchen to continue making lunch. Eleven came downstairs, and I served both girls and myself. We watched the story, making little jokes, indulging ourselves in the running commentary we’ve started providing to almost any film. After we finished eating, the girls rushed through washing their hands so they could settle in front of the TV in the family room. I started collecting dirty dishes and brushing crumbs into the trash.
“Oh, they’re making it look like it’s from Hachi’s point of view,” Eleven remarked.
“No, they’re not,” I said.
“Yes, they are,” she said, intrigued by the subtle but powerful visual choice. “See, this part’s in black and white.”
“Dogs are colorblind,” Nine confirmed for me.
Which I already knew; I just didn’t know the moviemakers had chosen to portray Hachi’s side of the story.
Normally when I make a meal and we all eat, I start cleaning up right away. This time, however, I couldn’t help ignoring the dirty dishes and countertops to sit down and watch the movie. Some parts I remembered; many I didn’t. I kept glancing at Nine, waiting for the same reaction she had nearly five years ago.
The story ended with Hachi’s death and a short explanation of the true story as well as pictures of the real-life Hachi and his owner. Nine didn’t say anything. She just went up to her room. I went back to the kitchen to clean up.
Several minutes later, she came back down to ask me a question. I asked her how she felt about the movie.
“Did it make you sad?” I asked.
She nodded and held up a hand with her index finger and thumb about a half inch apart. “A little.”
“Me too,” I said. “It made me want to cry.”
She smiled in sympathy and bounded back upstairs.
And it did too. The story of the relationship between Hachi and the professor touched my heart in a way that animal movies almost never do. I blinked back a few tears as I washed the dishes, looked out of the kitchen window, and thought about the concept of loyalty and the strength of the love that binds us the tightest.
I also had to sigh with relief. We made it through the film without any tears from Nine this time. She didn’t have to swear it off anymore. We’d finally brought another family-friendly movie back into our lives.
It may seem like such a small thing to be happy about, but Nine faced something that bothered her for years and she came out the other end okay. I’m glad she could see that that’s possible, that the things that freak us out at a young age don’t always have to do so when we’re older. Not that I plan to see Child’s Play anytime soon or anything.