Friday, February 4, 2011

Tragedy Brings A Family Together

We’ve all heard the saying: tragedy brings people together. Unfortunately this is very true. When a family member dies, more likely than a marriage, the entire family is there but on any other occasion you won’t see them. During floods, disasters, war or famine families will ban together to help each other out but if there wasn’t any outside disastrous force… they probably won’t be nearly as close as they were. I have been watching Signs over and over and I always thought it was interesting that every time there is some kind of alien contact or foreboding incident, the Hess family is together. This is opposed to when there isn’t anything happening and they are together but not moralistically or mentally. I find it very unique that, in Sign’s case, it takes an alien invasion to not only bring the family together but also give Graham his faith in God back. To truly understand the family you must go into their past before the aliens even came to Earth.

Before anything happened, Graham was a loving father who also happened to be a Father at his church. He had a daughter, a son and a very loving wife and his brother lived with them to help on the farm. It wasn’t until his wife was killed when the town veterinarian fell asleep at the wheel and pinned her up against a tree. Ever since then, Graham lost his faith and his family had been torn apart. His kids became more connected with their Uncle Merrill, perhaps because they realized that their father had changed for the worst. There is a great sequence when the Hess family visits their town and everybody parts their separate ways, effectively showing that the family is slowly breaking apart. When they finally do meet up for pizza, they eat together but they don’t really talk that much or make eye contact. It’s a wonderful visual showing that even when the family is together, they aren’t really together.

What’s truly interesting is what happens when they finally come back home. Morgan, the son, had previously taken his sister’s old baby monitors to use as walkie-talkies. When they come home, the baby monitor begins picking up radio waves that are being broadcasted from the aliens. This is the first time we ever see the family work together like an actual family; it’s actually very inspiring to see them help each other get on the car and to hold hands. It’s also good to note that in order for them to get a good clear signal the entire family needs to be holding each other’s hands as if the aliens, by some divine force, are making them become more connect with each other. Perhaps in this case, the outside threatening force is literally bringing the family close to each other.

As the film progresses, the family becomes more and more like a family that’s not to say without some hostility. One scene that comes to mind is after Graham’s encounter with the alien inside the vet’s pantry; he comes home and asks Morgan what would happen if the aliens were hostile then takes a family vote on whether they should stay or leave their home. It’s pleasant to see them decide as a family but it’s at this point that you understand why Graham’s kids feel so disassociated with him; he can be very stubborn at times.

The most defining moment for the entire family comes near the end. During the family’s ‘last supper’ Morgan wants to say a prayer but Graham insists that they just sit and eat and when he sees that nobody is doing so he begins to grab food off other people’s plate. Morgan and his sister Bo begin to cry as Merrill stares at Graham with disgust. It’s such a heartbreaking moment because you realize that Graham, even in the midst of his stubbornness, comes to an epiphany and realizes that he is hurting the family. As he breaks down and cries, his son, daughter and brother begin to hug him. I think it’s at that moment that the family truly realizes how distant they became from each other and perhaps that given the circumstances, this moment would have never happened.

Think about it. If Graham didn’t encounter the alien in the pantry, there would be no family vote. If Morgan didn’t accidentally contact aliens with the monitor, the family wouldn’t have learned to work together. If it wasn’t for the aliens coming to Earth in the first place, none of these things would happen and there would be no ‘last supper.’ As the family sleeps in the cellar as the aliens ransack the house, Graham is holding Morgan tightly unwilling to let him go and it’s such a touching moment because Morgan is the only character to truly show his hatred for his dad. In the end, after being reborn, he looks upon him with loving eyes. Maybe the aliens were a metaphor for the family’s inner problems and that they would have to work together in order to overcome them.

There is a very disturbing picture in one of Morgan’s alien books showing a home that looks exactly like the Hess’s home being burnt down by an alien ship. Outside, lying dead in the yard and on fire, are three bodies. Graham makes the observation that it looks like them. This is what would happen if the Hess family did not decide to let bygones be bygones. They would have ended up killing themselves, maybe not literally but emotionally. It’s further proof that tragedies bring people together because it lets us know whom we truly value and love; who we can count on and whom we can work together with.


HorrO said...

Great review. A very different look at the movie. The family dynamic is a very important part of the movie. Great point about how the aliens actually brought the family together. I don't think I had thought of that before. As you know, I am a fan of this movie, so it is always fun reading your thoughts on it.

Mr. Johnny Sandman said...

I'm really glad that somebody else loves this movie. I have so many thoughts on it that I have to find time to write all of them down. It's up to us to spread the love for this movie. It's one of M. Night's greatest films. Truly magnificent.

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