Forest Gump is a classic because it reminds us that even the most unlikely individuals can be heroes in their own way. The adaptation boasts a cast including Tom Hanks, Robin Wright, and Sally Field – it’s no surprise that the story of an ordinary man who leads an extraordinary life has become a beloved film of countless individuals.
The film takes you through Forest’s life as he tells his story to different people waiting at a bus stop. The setting of the film shifts depending on what part of his life he’s talking about – everywhere from Vietnam to Washington, D.C., Bayou LeBatre, Louisiana, and Greenbow, Alabama. The film encapsulates periods of history such as integration, the Vietnam war, the Watergate Scandal, and JFK’s assassination. Throughout the film, Forest makes connections with many unforgettable characters, such as Lieutenant Dan Taylor and Benjamin Buford “Bubba” Blue. Of course, no good southern boy is complete without his momma, and Forest’s mother is responsible for ingraining in him that he is no different than anyone else.
The beautiful thing about Forest Gump is that it shows how our relationships are intertwined with other people, and the importance of keeping the promises we make. Forest doesn’t do the selfless actions that he does out of arrogance or because he expects something in return; his character is so “pure” in a way that we don’t see often. He even finds beauty in the chaos of Vietnam, remarking to his childhood sweetheart Jenny that it wasn’t so bad when the rain stopped and he could gaze upon the stars in the sky.
Of course, it would be remiss to neglect the fact that Forest’s life isn’t without hardship. He had a low IQ, which often made him seem more “different” than he really was. The love of his life was never able to fully commit to him until she needed to depend on him, and he loses a good friend during a devastating war. But what makes this all seem so human the fact that Forest, in his strange way, deals with his grief proactively. He doesn’t retreat home to Greenbow to lament – he instead travels to Louisiana to keep his promise to Bubba and ends up becoming a millionaire and changing lives along the way.
From the scenes on the water during his time as a shrimp boat captain, the long sweeping views of his homestead, to the different landscapes from his cross country marathon, the director did an excellent job of keeping everything visually engaging. This, along with the gradual appearance change of the main characters, led to a sense of time passing –you understand that each character has changed and aged. This makes the film feel all the more “real,” as if you’re looking into the life of an actual stranger, perhaps one sitting at a bus stop, telling you the story of his life. The soundtrack is an element of the film that deserves special mention. It was curated to capture the sounds of the different eras the film moves through. The soundtrack helps to transport you into the time period more fully. It became a bestseller after the movie was released, if that tells you anything about how excellent it was.
What surprised me the most about Forest Gump (the film, not the man) was that it included controversial themes and events, but dealt with them gracefully. On one hand, Forest Gump makes an excellent kitschy themed restaurant, but it also goes to show that we, as individuals, are in charge of the kinds of life we lead. I would give this film an A+.