Wednesday, January 25, 2012

We Bought a Zoo: A Movie Recommendation

I love to read, and I suppose because of the work I do, I am drawn to stories that teach me about grief, most especially those that describe the myriad ways people survive it, as they manage to transcend the most tragic of losses and find meaning in them. I also love to watch and to go to the movies, and once again, my favorite films are those about overcoming loss.

In an earlier article, Grief Observed: Using Movies to Move through Grief, I shared my belief that movies can serve as a valuable tool, because—when selected carefully and intentionally— they can help us get in touch with painful, blocked or pent-up emotions, and help us see our own grief issues from a different perspective.

Before I see a first-run movie, I like to read the reviews to help me decide if it’s worth my time (and money), but occasionally I take a chance and go see a film despite what I’ve read about it, and sometimes I am pleasantly surprised. Here is one of those pleasant surprises:

We Bought a Zoo – In this film based on a true story, recently widowed adventure journalist Benjamin Mee (Matt Damon) decides to buy an old house on several acres that happen to include an animal preserve. His school-aged daughter Rosie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones) is thrilled, but his adolescent son Dylan (Colin Ford) is clearly unhappy with the decision and obviously preoccupied with missing his mom.

The film portrays Benjamin’s struggles with the zoo and with his son, at the same time touching upon many aspects of grief as well, including his attempting to start over as a single dad; fending off unwanted and premature advances; coping with different mourning patterns in his family (two children of different genders and developmental stages); experiencing grief triggers; finding a way to face the pain of loss and move forward without letting go of his love; and helping his children to remember their mom. The story also includes facing the need for end-of-life care for one of the animals, which serves as a touching metaphor for Benjamin’s own struggles with letting go.

I especially liked that so many of the actors’ thoughts and emotions are conveyed with facial expressions alone, and everyone in the cast is wonderful in that regard. As Benjamin's brother says about all of them, "I like the animals--but I love the humans." Needless to say, I loved this movie.

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© by Marty Tousley, CNS-BC, FT, BC-TMH


  1. Thanks for the heads up Marty...I had no idea the movie had this sort of content. I'll definately put it on my 'must see list.'

    I too enjoy watching these sort of movies, I often come away with something else to put in my 'tool box.'

    Thanks as always for your support Marty,
    Diana x

  2. You are SO welcome, Diana dear! I hope it touches your heart as it did mine. Bring lots of tissues. The last scene in this movie is priceless, and left me in a puddle of tears. ♥

  3. Another movie I loved this season is "The Descendants" with George Clooney, about a dad and his kids faced with the impending death of their wife and mother. Read Katy Ryan's nice review on the Seven Ponds blog, here:


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