It’s hard for me when I remember I’m a grown up now.
I vote, pay bills, and file taxes. I plan meals, grocery shop, and cook. When I move to a new place, I have to find a new doctor and dentist by myself (no matter how much I protest). I have to do these things to survive, so I learn them and accept them without too much fuss. But I have always been a little afraid of being “a grown up.” Of forgetting what it feels like to be a child.
Thankfully, there are stories like The Little Prince.
“Once upon a time, there was a little Prince who lived on a planet that was scarcely bigger than himself, and who had need of a friend.”
These words are familiar to many of us who grew up reading Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, either the French original or one of the over 250 translations published around the world. Since 1943, its whimsical illustrations and deeply profound words have influenced kids and grown ups all over the world. And finally we have a modern major motion picture celebrating its legacy.
In this new version, we first meet a super-smart little girl (Mackenzie Foy, Interstellar) whose straight-laced mother (Rachel McAdams, Spotlight, Midnight in Paris) lives and breathes to create success in her daughter’s life. I’m talking, class A helicopter parent – magnified by a total absence of Dad, who apparently just sends an obligatory snow globe every year on his daughter’s birthday.
We’re then introduced to an eccentric, elderly aviator (Jeff Bridges, The Giver, True Grit) next door who bursts into their life (quite literally) and introduces the little girl to his memories of a little Prince – a child, like herself, in need of a friend.
As the story goes on, the lines between reality and imagination blur. Friendship grows and arguments explode and the girl lets go of her mother’s expectations to pursue something greater – though she isn’t sure what. Buzzing in her head remains the the little yellow-haired, scarf-wearing Prince. Is he still out there, somewhere? Is he still a child and full of the wisdom that only children possess?
The film does a fine job of weaving in some of the most memorable, poignant moments from the original novella.
Like the Rose, who shows me that love can transform the most commonplace of creatures into something truly unique.
Like the Prince, who reminds me that love lives forever in my heart and memory, no matter what changes, ages, or dies.
Like the Aviator, who shows me that growing up is not the problem: forgetting is.
The Little Prince is a beautiful blend of a classic story and a new, compelling one. The animation is absolutely arresting, full of light, shadows, and the aura of wonder. It’s the sort of movie where stars hang from threads, and you can almost hear them laughing.
I think what makes it most compelling, as its own story and as an adaptation, is the honesty with which it tackles both childhood and adulthood. Being an adult is not the perfect state, but neither is being a child. (We can’t help which we are, after all.) But we begin to drift apart, we begin to lose each other, when we forget to be awestruck. When we put tasks and lists and self-interest above sacrifice, friendship, and vulnerability.
“It is only with heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.”