The Thing I Like About …

Fearless, starring Jeff Bridges and Rosie Perez:  the scene with the toolbox (mild spoiler ahead).

Fearless (1993) starts with a plane crash, one that kills most of the people on board, including Carla’s (Perez) little guy.  She and Max (Bridges) are encouraged to join a survivors’ support group, where the flight attendant who had helped Carla during descent defended her advice: “Just hold the baby on your lap and cross your arms in front of him.”  Understandably, Carla becomes extremely upset and angry, blaming the stewardess for telling her to do that, because her baby had not survived impact.

But Max understands that her grief is mixed in with guilt – she feels that she should have been able to hold onto her little guy, and she feels that she let him down.  She feels … horrible, so horrible, in fact, that she becomes momentarily irrational, rocking back and forth and calling her little boy’s name.  So Max straps her into the back seat of his car and hands her his red toolbox and tells her it’s her little boy and that she has to hang on tight-so-tight.  Carla, lost in her grief, clutches the toolbox as though it really were her little boy, and her body begins to relive the crash – tensing, trembling, crying.  Not this time, she’s thinking.  I’m prepared this time.  I won’t let go this time.  I won’t let him down this time.  I won’t let him die.

And Max straps himself into the driver’s seat, accelerates to 70-odd miles per hour, and slams the car into a concrete wall.

The toolbox flies through the windshield and slams into the concrete wall as well.

Carla realizes that she couldn’t have done one single thing to hold onto her baby … and that’s when her healing can begin.

Watching the toolbox sail through the window gave me chills.  It was easy to sympathize with Carla’s panicked state, and to want her baby to have lived.  It was easy to sit there like she did, muscles tense, gripping an imaginary toolbox and thinking, “Not this time.”  And then … all the love in the world was trumped by physics, and all the wishing and promises and desperate clinging didn’t really make a lick of difference.  What does that mean?  I suppose it could mean that I will always, always buy my babies their own plane-seats with car-seats, for whatever that will be worth.  It might mean that I focus a little bit more on holding the people I love while they’re here with me.  Initially, though, it meant to me that, whatever magic I may believe in (a considerable amount, actually), there are many, many things that I cannot do, things I can’t predict or control, things that happen just the same no matter what I want, or what I do.

What have I done with that realization?  I’m frankly not entirely sure … but I really like the scene with the toolbox.

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