Big Fish, Endings and Fathers

Posted ScriptGeek Uncategorized

big_fishHi everyone! Apologies that I haven’t made a blog post in a while; I’ve been lucky to have an influx of new clients over the last couple of months, and I’ve been hard at work on their submissions. It’s been a real pleasure to meet so many new writers.

Onward to the point of this blog. Your time is precious no doubt.

I was browsing random third acts in movies as part of a project I’m working on for a client, and I stumbled upon the finale to Big Fish again. How great is that ending? Seriously.

For those of you who don’t know, Big Fish is a 2003 fantasy drama written by John August and directed by Tim Burton. It’s based on the 1998 novel by Daniel Wallace. It’s the story of a father, Edward Bloom, who, near death, recounts the many extraordinary and unbelievable stories that made up his youthful days. His son, Will, tired of his dad’s apparent tall tales, wishes to find some measure of truth in their already damaged relationship.

You get the sense that father and son have not had a meaningful conversation in years, possibly even ever at all. Edward’s a born storyteller, but Will doesn’t believe a word. He feels his father’s stories are of little substance to the moment here and now.

The ending is beautifully heartbreaking. Edward is taking his last breaths, and with Will sitting at his side, the father asks to hear the story of how he leaves this world. He wants the story to incorporate the river. He can’t physically get there, so he asks his son to tell the story. Will is not a natural storyteller, not like his father, and so he’s completely out of his comfort zone.

Will: ‘I need your help. Tell me how it starts.’

Edward: ‘Like this.’

That’s the helping hand to get Will going, and from there he tells the story of how he breaks his father out of hospital, and goes to the river, where a crowd of people are already waiting – all of the friends and faces that populated Edward’s stories.

As Will finishes the story, Edward passes on. He’s filled with happiness, and it’s powerful because now his son has become the storyteller. They have finally shared one meaningful connection. In the next scene, Will attends his father’s funeral, and is surprised to see hints and traces of the characters that filled his father’s tales. These people existed, but were sometimes embellished or exaggerated, but they were the source of Edward’s stories. There was truth in there.

Will has finally accepted a part of his father’s life into his own being. There is respect there. Relief for the father who is finally accepted by the son, and for the son who finally understands the father.

I remember seeing this movie with my own father about eight years ago. Our own relationship has been strained at times, as his relationship with his own father was too. During that ending I felt that there was a moment of realisation for us, but by the time the credits began it was lost.

Such is human relationship. What needed to be said was lost in that moment. But I hold the memory of that moment.

God it’s such a great ending.

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