A Wrinkle in Time

As the reviews for Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time roll in, I’ve seen a range of reactions, most of which rank on the hedging-to-mocking scale. “It’s not perfect, but…” “It’s nothing like the book.” “This is what Disney wasted all that money on?”

Here’s the thing, though. I could care less about a bunch of cynical adults who think it’s their job to be ironic about every movie they see because that’s how film criticism works these days, and I could care less what they think about A Wrinkle in Time. Those adults (and the loudest of them are old, white men) will never set aside their hard-earned adulthood for fear of losing their “cred” and because of that, they will never see the wonder and the importance of A Wrinkle in Time. They will never let themselves feel like children again because they think that to be a child is to be powerless.

In the real world, yes, that is true. When I was 12, I was only just beginning to realize that, to most adults, what I said didn’t matter, especially when it contradicted another adult who was very, very good at convincing powerful people that he was never wrong. I remember how that felt, knowing that adults who had control over my life and systems that were supposed to protect me neither trusted me or thought I was worth listening to. It’s not a good feeling. It lingers to this day.

I desperately needed A Wrinkle in Time when I was Meg Murry’s age. I needed to see a movie where every single adult (with the exception of a villainous puppet) not only treats Meg (Storm Reid), an exceptionally smart pre-teen who is lost and full of self-doubt after her father’s disappearance, with respect but also believes in her. No matter how many times Meg makes a mistake or says she can’t, there is an adult by her side who says, “You can.”

Until you’ve been a pre-teen girl who says, “I can’t,” and the world says back, “You’re right,” I don’t think it’s possible for you to know how much this matters. For every grown-up woman who needed this movie when they were 12, there is a girl who is still growing up and will see herself in Meg. After all, Meg is the most relatable girl in the universe because she is full of contradictions: She loves her brother (Deric McCabe) but resents his weirdness; she misses her father and hates him for leaving at the same time; she is bullied by a pretty popular girl who lives next door yet wants nothing more than to be like her; she is uncomfortable in her own skin because it does not look like everyone else’s; she is angry and hurt and vulnerable and brave and smart and stronger than she knows.

And so, when Oprah Winfrey’s Mrs. Which tells Meg in no uncertain terms just how special she is exactly the way she is, that girl who sees herself in Meg will take the message to heart. It may take awhile for her to really believe it — I can’t even remember all the times my mom told me the same thing, and all the times I scoffed to cover the stone in my throat — but, eventually, she will.

So, seriously: Who gives a shit what a bunch of cynical, old, white men have to say about this movie? They are so blind that it would never occur to them that this movie is for them as much as it is for their daughters and granddaughters, and for their wives and mothers. This is a movie that says any girl in the world could save the universe, so please, please, love your daughter like the Murrys (Chris Pine and Gugu Mbatha-Raw) do. Challenge her like Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon) does, encourage her like Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling) does, listen to her like the Happy Medium (Zach Galifianakis) does, believe in her like Mrs. Which does.

She deserves nothing less from you.

And so, my final plea: Do not dismiss this movie. Do not listen to the cavalier reviews. Children don’t care if a script feels weak or if an indie director’s intimate style is not what you expect going into a big-budget studio film. Children care about seeing themselves in their favorite characters. They care about stories with limitless possibilities, stories in which they can happily lose themselves. And as they grow up, as the world gets more complicated, they’ll need the reminder that is at the core of this movie: They are loved, they deserve love, and love is never really gone. Just enfolded.

Adults need that reminder sometimes, too. It takes courage to admit it to yourself and to go back to a place where childlike wonder goes hand-in-hand with vulnerability. A Wrinkle in Time knows this, and it welcomes you — all of you — with open arms. Don’t be afraid to let it enfold you.

Aly Caviness is an administrator of Midwest Film Journal, possible witch, and lifelong film obsessive. Through Lynch, her grandmother taught her how to spot “The Girl,” and through Frankenstein, her grandfather taught her how to love in spite of fear. She blames Jack Sparrow for her MA in colonial Atlantic history and Guy Pearce for her marriage. By day, she works and writes in the Archives & Library at the Indiana Historical Society, which possesses such artifacts from Hoosier film history as James Dean’s high school yearbooks and posters from the 1997 classic, “George of the Jungle.” By night, she mostly cries about Laura Palmer.

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