Sunday watch for us this week was The Shawshank Redemption. Tenacity, friendship and hope—these were the three things that stood out the most in this iconic film that we watched with our teen (our second viewing, his first). It was easy to pick the title, since it happened to be one film that, for us, would always stand right up with the best of the Hollywood films ever made.
Based on Stephen King’s beloved novella, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, the story displays horrors of a different kind. It revolves around two men serving life sentences and how in the process of fighting off despair in their unique ways, they take us through a span of twenty years, from the time one of them (Andy) is convicted to the release of the other one (Red) after forty years in prison.
Tim Robbins’ Andy and Morgan Freeman’s Red stand out for their characters and they bring a lot of life and realism into it, as well as a warmth in the friendship that builds up between them. One could say the film is mostly an allegory about how our greatest strength can come out of our sense of personal worth, despite everything that can go wrong in life. The prisoners serving their term at Shawshank are all lifers, and although prison life is extremely harsh and brutish most of the time, the film does not sink into a prison drama or a replay of horrors.
The story is narrated by Red, and we see Andy through his eyes. The film takes us through a range of emotions—from curiosity to pity and admiration for what Andy goes through during his time in prison. For the greater part of the film, we are kept in suspense about Andy’s act, wondering if he really did commit the double murders for which he was given the two life terms that he has been serving.
We are always made to ponder upon why Andy chooses to keep to himself or why he ambles through the prison yard like a free man on a stroll when everyone else appears to be plodding or throwing furtive glances around. What is most striking is how Andy accepts whatever good and bad comes his way, without resorting to any heroic stances, as if it were all part of a larger pattern that only he can see and the rest can’t. Therein, lies the crux of the story. It is heartbreaking and poignant in parts and a major part of the story is about the power of hope that underpins the events that lead us through to the finale or denouement when the twist in the tale brings the story beautifully together.
For those who haven’t watched it before, you’ll find it on Amazon Prime. And if you are like me, watching it again will give you another chance to enjoy your favourite parts, and you already know why it stands the test of time for being one of the greatest films of all time. Besides an excellent cast and superb acting, there are some incredible lines in the film that will resonate with you.
The most iconic of them is the one that conveys, in just seven words, the very essence of the story that the film tries to convey in two and a half hours:
“Get busy livin’ or get busy dyin’.”
If you’ve watched the film, do share your reactions. What did you most like about it and if you had to share just one thing that stood out for you from this timeless tale of friendship and hope, what would that be?
Written as part of our #SoulfulSunday freewriting exercise—a concept ideated by Vinitha, Shilpa and yours truly.