Reviewed by: Brett Willis
“Fifty years ago he volunteered for a dangerous experiment. All in the name of love. Time waits for no man, but true love waits forever.”
A unique and heartwarming story, superb filmmaking with a light touch, and outstanding performances by Mel Gibson (as Capt. Daniel McCormick), Jamie Lee Curtis (as single mom Claire Cooper) and a young Elijah Wood (as her son Nat) make “Forever Young” one of my and my family’s favorite videos. We play it every year on Valentine’s Day.
In 1939, Daniel is a test pilot who repeatedly fails to tell his lifetime girlfriend how deeply he cares about her. After an accident, it seems he’s blown his last chance. Therefore, he volunteers for an experiment—to be frozen for a year and then thawed. Technically this makes the film Sci-Fi, but it’s just a plot element and is not played with occult overtones. The pseudoscience, and the occasional satire on government and military bumbling, remind me of films like “The Absent-Minded Professor” although they’re played less humorously here.
In 1992, Nat and his buddy accidentally open Daniel’s abandoned cryo-capsule while playing in a government warehouse. Daniel awakens and faces the twin challenges of fitting into a vastly changed world and reconnecting with his past. The director manages to insert a lot of little special touches into the film without distracting us from the primary storyline. In Daniel’s relationships with Nat and Claire and in the various plot twists, there’s something here for both male and female viewers of all ages. Neither overtly pro-Christian nor anti-Christian, it’s a happy/sad film about relationships and second chances.
There are some scenes which call for the fast forward button if young children are watching, and some theme elements with moral issues; but the number and intensity of these is noticeably less than in most modern films, and some of them have a positive spin. Daniel is briefly shown nude (side view) emerging from the cryo-capsule. The plot forces Daniel to steal things (including a set of clothes), and to lie about his origin (when he tells the truth, no one believes him). Claire appears with her shirt unbuttoned (she has a bra on) when the roof leaks while she’s getting dressed. There’s a fist fight as Daniel protects Claire from an assault, and afterwards she has a few choice words about her attacker (the rarity of such language throughout this film, and the way Daniel reacts to it here—as though in his world, women didn’t talk like that—is a nice touch). At one point Daniel and Claire engage in a kiss that turns briefly passionate, but they break it off when they realize that each is using the other as a substitute for someone else; their relationship then returns to one of mutual respect (another nice touch).
I should mention that although freezing and thawing a full-grown human (or any warm-blooded creature) is far beyond current technology, tiny human embryos are frozen and thawed every day by fertility clinics, with many of them killed in the process or in the attempted implantation after thawing. To fully enjoy this film, you have to set aside the fact that using this kind of technology would amount to playing God.