Want to see a film with the family?
This blog post is by Nicola Baird sharing ideas about thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children. This post is a rare treat – a suggestion of a film you might like to go to with your animal-adoring kids. For more info about parenting see my book Homemade Kids, or for my website click here. Pic of the movie poster.
“All you need is 20 seconds of insane courage.” It’s a great idea – and one of several copyable take home messages from We Bought A Zoo – a new movie ideal for families, that’s directed by Cameron Crowe starring Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson as an improbably gorgeous zoo keeper.
How do you start again?
When my kids were still both at primary school I was miserable in my job. This was a shame as it really ought to have been a perfect match – environmental campaign job ideal for an eco bunny like me. And part time! What more could a parent want? A new start was the answer.
So I started wearing a ring on a leather neck chord that said “imagine”. Honestly it looked like a polo mint on the run. But every time I went to the loo I caught a glimpse of that necklace in the mirror, and was reminded that I could be doing something I loved more (being with my kids and writing from my own home). It took months of SWOT analysis, and the willingness to ignore the way the sums didn’t add up before I had the courage to hand in my notice. Now of course I can work at the kitchen table, with a dog at my feet, ducklings in the passageway and hens in the garden. And stop work early to go to a film screening…
In contrast our hero – Benjamin Mee – played superbly by Matt Damon (in an Americanised version of Mee’s autobiograhical book We bought a Zoo) works far faster than that. He has been through a crap time (his flawless wife is dead and he’s got to raise two kids, a 14-year-old boy and the cutest 7 year old girl, alone), but thanks to his philosophy of harnessing 20 seconds of insane courage to make things happen, he exits his job and buys a beautiful new country home with some speed. He hardly notices that he’s bought a zoo that needs turning around.
What child wouldn’t adore their parent/s to do that? (A: Dylan, the older one!)
The animals luck out too. I loved the bear, the tigers, the otters and the peahen.
It’s true that I rarely go to the movies so tend to like the films that I do see. That said, We Bought A Zoo was fab – I thoroughly enjoyed laughing, crying and being scared by snakes. I love having animals around (despite living in London), so brought my husband along to this screening as a bit of a tease. In comparison, whatever I do (last week ducklings being fostered in our sitting room; next week it could be Giant African land snails in the bedroom – as promised by a man I met at a pub quiz) it is not going to be as radical as buying a zoo…
The film also offers a great on-screen lesson in parenting when things are going pear-shaped. I won’t spoil how that goes.
If you were ever a fan of TV’s All Creatures Great & Small, or anything David Attenborough’s done, then this film should be on your go see list. I’m definitely going again with my two daughters as soon as it comes out.
Over to you book lovers
You can visit the inspiration for this film – the book by one-time Guardian writer Benjamin Mee which charts the story of his wife’s sad and quick death and the simultaneous struggle to buy and fix up a zoo with his extended family (mum, brother, young children, etc). I picked it for my 12 year old Lola as she’d just finished all the Gerald Durrell books and was bereft. Like the movie, the book is a real feel good story (though I howled once). It became a BBC TV series, Ben’s Zoo, and the zoo is still flourishing. Go see for yourself at this website Dartmoor Zoological Park. Or just head to Plymouth and pop on a bus.
Personally I’m pro zoos, especially those which go out of their way to look after the animals and replicate natural and wild behaviours, and mostly stock critically endangered animals on captive breeding programmes. In an ideal world we wouldn’t need them – but we’re not living in an ideal world. We Bought A Zoo doesn’t tackle these questions – it’s more abut personal adventure. But it offers such a feel good experience that you’ll find it easy to use this film as the jumping off point for some far larger questions with family and friends, such as : who am I, what am I doing here, where am I going? Good luck.
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