It can be difficult to find movies that are affirming for both boys and girls, and it is a rare film today that captures the imagination and pulls us into the magical world of cinema. As I watched the movie Hugo with my 12-year-old daughter, I felt that we had found a film that does both of those things.
Hugo is the story of a boy who has been orphaned and then abandoned who is looking for his place in the world. Hugo works on clocks, and this serves as a metaphor for life for him. As he works to make machines that are broken work again, Hugo begins to understand that everyone has a role to play in the world around them. When his friend, Isabelle, questions her own role in life, Hugo explains how he came to see things.
“I’d imagine the whole world was one big machine. Machines never come with any extra parts, you know. They always come with the exact amount they need. So I figured if the entire world was one big machine, I couldn’t be an extra part. I had to be here for some reason. And that means you have to be here for some reason too.”
He and Isabelle then go on to help many other people in their lives find their own places in the world. What I love about this movie was the way that both Hugo and Isabelle were depicted as complex characters. Isabelle isn’t some shallow love interest. Instead, she’s Hugo’s friend. They are both people who are longing to belong, who have lost a great deal, and yet want to help others. Isabelle isn’t interested in shopping and looking like she’s 20 and Hugo isn’t interested in destroying everything he sees. These are realistic and powerful characters with whom children can connect emotionally.
My daughter and I both also liked the positive message in Hugo that each of us has talents to offer the world. Even in the smaller characters, Scorsese pulls together enough of a story to emphasize this message again and again. This movie could be a great starting place for a conversation with your own children about looking for ways to reach out to others, to serve others, to use their talents to make the world a better place.
Hugo is one of a handful of children’s movies that I’ve seen recently that offer such optimist messages about the value of human beings. If you’re looking for this type of movie to watch with your children, you might also consider Ramona & Beezus, which focuses on learning to accept yourself and others for who each of you are and celebrate your differences. My family loves both the Narnia series and the Harry Potter series for deep messages about the power of love and friendship and the importance of standing up for what is right even in the darkest moments.
If you have other movies that you would recommend that promote positive messages to children, I would love to hear about them in the comments to this post. It would be great to have a list of resources for parents who are looking for positive media options. Thanks for sharing!