Ava DuVernay’s ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ Is The Film We All Needed In Adolescence [Review]
Andre Grant was able to screen Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time film and offer his opinion on the eve of its release to theaters.
“The creative adult is the child who survived,” said Ursula K. Leguin. Or was it someone else? Whoever said it, the moments they were talking about surviving are adolescence. That time of your life is filled with innumerable terrors as you transition from childhood to young adulthood, but those terrors are made somewhat easier by things you love; whatever you love. They should also be made easier by Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time,” which adoringly tries to tell the 12-year-old inside all of us that it’s okay to be yourself; it’s okay to delve inside yourself; and it’s okay to heal.
Based on the young adult novel by Madeleine L’Engle — a novel that was almost never published — the tale follows Margaret “Meg” Murray (played by Storm Reid), and Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which, supernatural beings of time, space, and light. They’ve gathered to save Meg Murry’s dad Mr. Murry (played by Chris Pine), a scientist lost in in the universe after discovering how to tesseract (a mechanism that, by resonating along the correct wavelength, can fold any two points in space and time together). Her young 5-year-old brother Charles Wallace-Murry (played by the adorable Deric McCabe) is a genius and prodigy, who sometimes reads Meg’s mind, and is also the one who connects Meg and her friend Calvin (played by Levi Miller) to the Mrs. W’s. Though not all the siblings from the novel survive the transition to the big screen (Meg’s brothers Sandy and Denny’s are absent), the main one’s are all present and all gorgeously rendered. This includes Meg and Charles’s mother Mrs. Murry (touchingly played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw).
The Mrs. W’s are brought to life by a trio of stars. Mindy Kaling plays Mrs. Who, a being so wise she usually doesn’t communicate in her own words. Reese Witherspoon stars as Mrs. Whatsit, the youngest of the three beings and the one who best understands Meg the best. Oprah Winfrey stars as Mrs. Which, the oldest and most powerful of the three. Together, they take Meg on a journey through her hurt over her father disappearing 4-years-ago, her fractured relationship with herself and her emotions, and her slowly giving in to “The Black Thing” — literally described as the source of all evil in the universe.
Throughout their adventures they visit wondrous places and encounter beings of all types, as Meg applies her knowledge of physics to get them out of one jam or another. But Meg is also consumed by self-hatred and anger, making it difficult for her to ‘tesser.’ At one point, after arriving on a planet to catch an audience with the Happy Medium, played by Zach Galifianakis, she asks Mrs. Which if the next time they tesser she could arrive as someone else. It’s a feeling we’ve all carried with us at some point during the growing up process. For some reason, what was you just a minute ago seems completely inadequate, and the you to come seems completely unreasonable. Meg is stuck in this in-between, desperately trying to find and shun herself simultaneously.
Storm Reid does an incredible job of hitting the emotional turmoil of being a teen: Of not knowing who to trust and with what, of hiding yourself, of wanting to disappear. But, with a little help from her newly found friend Calvin (who wanders up to Meg and Charles as though he were called to be there), Charles, and the Mrs. W’s, she comes to realize that she has one thing the “It” (the brain that controls “The Black Thing”) doesn’t have. It really comes in handy when she’s forced to save her brother Charles from the clutches of the beast.
A Wrinkle in Time is a difficult film to make. The book is expansive with Universalist Christian symbolism everywhere. That quirk is one reason the book has been banned by Christian book stores the world over. Yet it’s a story that needed a big screen adaptation, if only to help guide the little one’s through the rough waters of one of the most crucial times in a young person’s life. If the film can do that, then, whatever the take at the box office, it would have been a massive cultural success. The performances are somewhat prescribed at times and the message is fairly heavy-handed, yes, but the work is necessary and bold. And, though the film deals with interstellar travel, it’s also a love letter to Los Angeles, a place that is itself fractured, cruel, and beautiful in its own way. It’s a movie that could not have been made any other way. So let us say a prayer: May this work become this generation’s The Labyrinth, may kids out there hurting and being hurt find a way back to themselves, and with this film’s help may they survive a childhood that can, sometimes, feel like an impossible task.
Support #BlackExcellence by copping a ticket or participating in the #WRINKLEchallenge. A Wrinkle in Time will be in theaters nationwide on Friday, March 9.