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So my son and I saw Logan a couple nights ago, and I mentioned on Twitter that I nearly walked out about ten minutes in. What I didn’t add was that I wanted to walk out and throw up. Neither the urge to walk nor the queasiness happened because the film did anything wrong for me. Instead, it was because the film depicted something so incredibly well, I took the gut punch before I even knew it was coming.

So this is not a review. It’s a reaction. Mild spoilers shall follow in this post, and might show up in comments should folks choose to chime in.

First, a review-ish thing unrelated to the gut punch: The fight scenes are incredible, and not because they’re all fancied up with slow-motion or odd lingering close-ups or flashy weapon manipulation that actual fighters won’t bring to an actual fight. No, my darlings, the fights in Logan are logical and smart. They are swift. They are economical. And those are the two traits a fighter who is experienced—and, frankly, plagued by a lifetime of scars and reduced stamina—will demonstrate in real life. Fighters who survive don’t become flashier as they age. They become efficient.

Now for the gut punch.

Many people have mentioned the aspect of abuse and trauma survivorship. I was hit with something else early in the film.

Caregiving.

Spoilers are below the cut for courtesy.





Logan is quite literally limping through life. But he and fellow mutant Caliban have a purpose, and that purpose is taking care of Charles.

Charles is declining, showing all the combativeness of an elderly and intelligent man whose mind is betraying him as surely as his body, and who is aware of that terrifying fact. He hates the need for meds that he both knows are necessary and hates the effects of. He hates the fact he needs them at all, and that hate sometimes snaps at Logan and Caliban because the pills don’t give a damn either way.

But there is more than upsetting senility. Charles is prone to seizures that unleash psychic attacks able to affect everyone in their proximity. And by “affect,” I mean everything from paralyze to kill. The killing has already happened, before the film opens, and Charles knows that, too.

Logan and Caliban endure these attacks, and try to prevent them by hustling for the right drugs to keep them at bay. It’s easy to see how most folks would consider the willingness to face that threat an indication of both bravery and love. It is, but their day-to-day, hour-by-hour willingness to do everything else—right down to lifting him on and off a toilet—is the greater courage and love.

It’s dementia, along with the violence often seen in Alzheimer’s. As someone who has cared for someone in mental decline, and will likely do so again over the coming decade, it ripped at me, and took the pieces I think the filmmakers assumed the audience would see and tilted them just a bit.

I’m pretty sure the film intended to show Logan as a man who needed to learn how to love—how to believe in the power of family—and young Laura was intended to be the vehicle through which he learned.

That fell totally flat for me, so I brushed it aside and watched my own version of the story.

In my version, Logan is not the “usual” self-absorbed aging fighter just waiting for the chance and the excuse to put a bullet in his head, who must thus be taught by a magical young woman how to love and accept family.

No.

Logan is a man who loves fully and deeply the men who share his past and understandings, and particularly loves the man who always expressed love and understanding for him. That love is strong enough to endure senility-fueled nastiness day in and day out, to accept the possibility a murderous seizure could hit in the midst of breakfast, to include all the body care tasks an elderly man in failing physical and mental health will require.

Logan already loves, dammit. He doesn’t keep that bullet around because no one loves him and he loves no one in return. He has that bullet because caregiving is fucking hard, and acknowledging it’s fucking hard can feel like a betrayal of the love. And because Logan knows—as all caregivers of the elderly and terminal know—that the only thing that’ll stop the fucking hard is losing the person you love.

And in the middle of the film comes a set of scenes with a farm family—a sweet and brief retreat intended, I’m sure, to give Logan a chance to reflect on the kind family life he could enjoy if he just stopped being so gruff all the time. I actually thought the scenes a stopover in the land of cruelty, placed there by a misunderstanding of the love involved in caregiving, and the limitations caregiving requires be set on life. Logan isn’t missing out on love. He is loving the way his life is permitting him to love. He is choosing to love.

He is still, exhausted and in pain, carrying the person he loves upstairs to a safe and comfortable bedroom. Without complaint.

And here’s the most heartbreaking thing: The person he loves still doesn’t see the beauty of that love. Charles still wants “normal” for Logan, which is at once an act of love that mistakenly dismisses love. It is the parent who, out of love, “knows” what’s best for the beloved child without actually seeing the child.

When Charles is gone, and Logan is left with young Laura, of course he takes care of her. But he doesn’t do it because he’s suddenly been enlightened on the importance of family and yada-yada. He does it because he is a caregiver, and the easiest thing in the world to do in the midst of grief and crisis is to keep doing what you know how to do.

Truly, the only thing harder than caregiving is to cease caregiving.

But there is indeed a character who learns the worth of family, of depending on someone and being someone others can depend on, of the responsibility of giving a damn.

Laura.

Logan’s legacy is not that he suddenly realized how to care for other people. It’s that he taught someone else the value of caring.

That’s the movie I saw.

What movie did you see in Logan?

#SFWApro

Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
resonant
Mar. 5th, 2017 01:03 pm (UTC)
Thank you. I haven't seen it yet, but will look for this when I do.
blairmacg
Mar. 6th, 2017 04:22 am (UTC)
I found it fascinating, especially after reading so many reviews that mentioned caregiving as a mere plot set-up, to suddenly experience the story as a caregiver's *journey* instead. It didn't make the movie better or worse... just different. I'll be interested to hear what you think! :)
(Deleted comment)
blairmacg
Mar. 6th, 2017 04:28 am (UTC)
Oh, I'm sorry! I didn't mean to scare anyone off! It was just a very intense emotional experience for me, based on my experience as a caregiver. Things that triggered that gut-punch feeling for me might not trigger it others. And it wasn't that it was a negative experience, but certainly a different one than I've seen others describe. Mine was a viewing through a different lens, is all.

Does that make sense?

That said, I've yet to read an in-depth review that didn't cast the film as emotional, if not downright dark. I didn't find dark--as in hopeless--but it does kick the emotions hard enough to hurt.
queenoftheskies
Mar. 5th, 2017 04:04 pm (UTC)
I hear it's an exceptional movie. Sadly, I don't think I could handle it. So I'm glad to hear about it from you.
blairmacg
Mar. 6th, 2017 04:32 am (UTC)
It is indeed exceptional, and I fully acknowledge it hit me hard--and in some of my most sensitive spots--because of my life experience. Others seem to have a completely different movie experience. Forex, my son came out of the movie feeling satisfied and hopeful, and had none of the "Oh, God, that's like a conversation I had with my husband before he died" reaction I did in the early parts of the film.

So... I saw a different movie not because I had some grand insight, but because things that might be placeholders/tropes for others are life experiences for me.
elenbarathi
Mar. 6th, 2017 08:19 pm (UTC)
I haven't seen it, and hadn't really planned to, but now I want to, because you make it sound like there's more to it than the usual 'Jacksonization' of classic Marvel canon.

Logan's problem has NEVER been that he 'couldn't love'. It's always been that the people he loves tend to die, usually while he's trying desperately to save them, and usually not knowing how much he loves them, because he couldn't ever tell them. He has ALWAYS been the Warrior Caregiver who deals with the pain of losing the ones he loves by finding someone else to serve and protect.

That's been the irony of Wolverine right along: nigh-invulnerable, with claws of adamantium; there's not much that can physically injure or defeat him, but emotionally is another matter. His flesh won't hold a scar, but his heart's a ragged mass of them - even so, whenever he's called upon to love and serve yet again, he does it.

That's the whole point of Logan/Wolverine IMHO; it's what makes him interesting and admirable. Invulnerability is intrinsically boring: if nothing can hurt a character, there's no reason to care about him. Logan's weakness and strength is his vulnerable heart.
elenbarathi
Mar. 13th, 2017 12:35 am (UTC)
Roger Ebert liked it
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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