Lost Innocence
             
            In “Sin Nombre,” Honduran teenager Sayra (Paulina Gaitan) longs to immigrate to the United States .  She enlists the help of her father, whom she obviously has not seen much of since he left to start a new family.  He tries to give her a photograph of his “other” family, but she refuses it.  He barely has an inkling of how to get to the USA , even illegally; he has only a crude map in his pocket that shows the Texas border;  New Jersey is just an idea.  They hop a train and ride on top, always watchful for border guards.  At the Mexican border they literally have to jump off the train and run around the trainyard to avoid security, and then jump back on the train after it leaves the station.  Food is scarce.  So is warmth.  When it rains, they just have to endure it.  Being able to bathe is a great luxury.  Sometimes the locals welcome them with food thrown to them; other times they throw rocks, hurled with epithets (“stupid illegals!”).   To make matters worse, at one point the y are robbed of what little they have by a gang of street toughs.  One of them, Willy (Edgar Flores), gang name “Casper,” still seething over his cruel leader’s treatment of his girlfriend Martha Marlene (Diana Garcia), commits the unpardonable sin of turning on the boss for his rapacious advances on Sayra.   Now Willy is on the run along with the rest of the huddled masses yearning to be free. He forms an uneasy friendship with Sayra; she gratefully sharing what little food she has, and he helping to protect her when they are separated from the rest of the group.  This is a gut-wrenching film that is difficult to watch, especially because so much of the violence, sex, and sexual violence involves minors.  But it feels so horrifyingly real.  And innocence, once lost, cannot be regained.
“Adventureland” is about typically sheltered American kids finally having to let go of their childhood, but not before one last summer of naiveté.    A college kid, James (Jesse Eisenberg) is graduating with a useless liberal arts degree, but he’s been accepted into grad school at Columbia University for journalism, a prospect he’s really excited about.  The trouble is, his Dad gets downsized, and his parents will no longer be able to afford to help him unless he takes a summer job.  So much for the planned European vacation with his rich buddy.  He winds up at an amusement park, a rather seedy one at that, stuck working double shifts at minimum wage, and trying to adjust to a completely new set of characters:  the weirdo boss, and co-workers like the cynical egghead, the juvenile jerk, the married man in a band who chases single women, the angry motherless girl with the wicked stepmother, the “looker” who actually comes on to him…..well, it’s a summer to remember.  Even if not everything goes according to plan (he wrecks his parent’s car, which derails his meager savings).  Yes, it’s a “coming of age” movie, set in 1987, complete with the long-hair metal music, but in another way it’s timeless, because haven’t we all had one of those summers?  Eisenberg’s demeanor is reminiscent of Michael Cera in “Juno”----all awkward and bumbling and bewildered, the relational rooki e, but good-natured, and kind-hearted----the kind of guy we wish good things for, even if by accident.  It’s good to see a hopeful teen comedy, worldly, but not too cynical or raunchy, and even whimsically romantic.  Teenage viewers could do a lot worse.
The only innocence in “Taken” is the naiveté of  a couple of  rich, idle, silly 18-year-old American girls who think they can just fly to Paris and follow U2 around on their European tour, without ever thinking about the potential danger.  And their indulgent parents not only let them, but even enable them.  Liam Neeson plays the “real” Dad of one of the girls, a guy who used to do some covert ops, and knows how to play rough when he has to.  And here, he has to go rescue his helpless daughter, who’s kidnapped, drugged, and sold as a sex slave.  But afterwards she’s just fine?  How naive is that?
“Two Lovers” is about an innocent named Leonard (Joaquin Phoenix) who is bipolar, lives with his immigrant Russian Jewish parents in Brighton Beach, tries to work in their dry-cleaning business downstairs, and doesn’t have a clue who he is or what he wants.  Then Michelle (Gwenyth Paltrow) comes along to use him, and Sandra (Vinessa Shaw) comes along to claim him, but our simpleton Leonard seems to desire the abuse rather than the comfort.  It was the apostle Paul who said, “I do not understand my own actions.  For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (Rom 7:15)
 
Questions For Discussion:
1)      When have you not been concerned about security, and should have been?
2)      When have you done the very thing you wanted not to do?
3)      When have you had a traumatic experience without the post-traumatic stress?
 
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church, Greenville , Texas