"Forrest Gump" is an all-over well-rounded film to say the least; it encompasses a little bit of everything I could ask for. I picked this film because, believe it or not, I'm twenty years old and had never watched Forrest Gump all the way through from beginning to end. I had seen numerous bits and parts of it here and there on television over the years and honestly, I assumed I had seen everything there was to see – but boy, was I wrong.
My first experience sitting and watching this film all the way through was filled with little surprises – "like a box of chocolates" – I never knew what I was going to get. Metaphorically speaking, I knew I was going to get "chocolate" – I knew the basic plot of the film, but then I was served up an abundance of surprising tastes, some sweet, some savory, some bitter, and some that seem to have just been thrown in for no good reason at all – just because the candy (film) makers felt like it.
The main theme in the movie is, as Forrest's mama says on her deathbed, "Death is just a part of life. Something we're all destined to do… I happen to believe you make your own destiny. You have to do the best with what God gave you." It centers on love, destiny, and death. We really only ever get to see Forrest get close to 4 people: his mother, Jenny, Bubba, and eventually, Lieutenant Dan. Forrest was able to save Lieutenant Dan's life, despite his desire to die in the war, as he believed he was destined to.
However, Forrest was unable to save his mother from cancer, Bubba from bullets, or Jenny from (what was most likely) HIV/AIDS. Another major theme I found in this movie is "You can't always get what you want." All Forrest ever wanted was Jenny. In the end, if you look beyond the virus that claimed Jenny's life, she was really the cause of her own demise.
Despite playing college football, graduating, being drafted, being awarded the medal of honor, buying the shrimping boat, becoming very wealthy, being a philanthropist, and still choosing to live a lower-middle-class lifestyle, and running across the country for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours, all he ever really desired was Jenny. Even in the end, he still never got her – she died. He had her only for the end of her young life. Forrest was always stuck with the second-best thing. Instead of keeping his mama alive, he got the house. Instead of keeping Bubba alive, he got a shrimp boat. Instead of keeping Jenny alive, he got their son, Forrest Jr.
That being said, from a more cinematic point of view, Forrest Gump seems to be heavily influenced by Italian Neorealism. It focuses on the poor and the working class and is filmed on location rather than on a set. Rather than contending with the difficult economic and moral conditions of post-World War II Italy, Forrest Gump focuses on the impact of the Vietnam War by representing changes in the American psyche and conditions of everyday life, including poverty, oppression, injustice, and desperation.
There's also a touch of the French New Wave with the aspect that the characters do things for no good reason at all. Why did Forrest Gump run across the country for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours? Reporters asked time and time again to no avail; Gump didn't have a good answer! He simply ran because he wanted to. Why did he want to? We don't know, and neither did he. He just felt like running so he did. That's a true staple of the French New Wave.
One detail that caught my attention was how whenever we saw someone and a car in the street, the car nearly hits the person, but the person doesn't flinch a muscle. This occurred twice where a random person was walking in a crosswalk and the oncoming car barely stopped before hitting the person. This resembles the two occasions where the bullies are chasing Forrest down that dirt road and nearly run him over. It also reminds me of when Forrest was running out of the jungle while carrying Bubba to (somewhat) safety and the airstrikes just barely missed his feet.
Another detail that really stuck out to me was how when they were young and Forrest went to check on Jenny after she missed school and her pedophile daddy was drunk and ready to beat on her, the two of them ran into the cornfield and prayed for God to make Jenny into a bird "so that [she] could fly far, far away." At the beginning of the film, Forrest is sitting on a bench waiting for the bus to go visit Jenny. We later realize that this is the last of many times that they will be together again, as she stays with him until she passes. The feather landing at his feet represents how Jenny is back in his life again. While at the end of the movie, Jenny is buried under "their tree."
As Forrest walks away after a long venting session to her grave about how much he misses her and how proud he is of their son, he turns around to walk away. As he does so, a whole flock of birds fly into a nearby tree. This corresponds with how after Forrest Jr. gets on the bus and Forrest Sr. Sits down, the feather between his feet gets blown away into the heavens, where Jenny is. A final detail that really got my attention was how Forrest always wears a sky blue plaid shirt in the first scene of each age transition. In the Bible, blue represents the healing power of God. In every stage of his life, whether he needs to heal his legs, his broken heart, or his gunshot wound to the buttocks, Forrest seems to always have some sort of healing to do.
This film is a true original, very complex, and rather coherent. Never before have I seen a film that encompasses so many values and lessons across such a wide spectrum of issues.
From overcoming disability, making the best of a relatively bad situation, overcoming whatever life throws at you, dealing with the loss of loved ones, adjusting to change, and finding your own destiny, Forrest Gump covers them all. I never knew when someone was going to die next, when Jenny was here to stay or about to leave again or even when she would come running back to Forrest. Despite this film's many twists and turns, everything was still coherent. Everything happened for a reason, and everything made perfect sense to me. The only thing that wasn't transparent to me was how Forrest Sr. and Forrest Jr. didn't also have HIV/AIDS. So after some thought, I've theorized that it was after Forrest Jr. was born that Jenny hit the needles one more time and contracted the virus.
Forrest Gump is a classic in my books – definitely one of my favorites. It covers a wide spectrum of American cultures. There are hippies to soldiers and veterans, playing ping-pong to entertain disabled veterans to attending events at The White House to meet the president. Forrest Gump led an incredible life, and this film successfully showed us through it without being slow or boring to the audience.
Between being a both physically and mentally disabled child raised by a single mother, having to deal with school bullies, and having Jenny come and go out of his lifetime and time again, Forrest is still going strong. If there are three lessons to take away from this film, they are that "shit happens," as his mama always said, "You've got to put the past behind you before you can move forward," and finally, Forrest's wise words at Jenny's grave, "I don't know if we each have a destiny, or if we're all just floating around accidental-like on a breeze, but I, I think maybe it's both. Maybe both is happening at the same time."
Despite all the hardships Forrest faces in life, by the end of the film he's still hanging on. This film has managed to tug at all of the right heartstrings of mine to make me say that I thoroughly enjoy and appreciate this film.