Last Saturday evening, my husband and I went to see The Bridge to Terebitha on a whim. We had planned to watch The Queen, which was playing in a theatre across town, but The Bridge to Terebitha was closer and fit better into our time schedule.
Without having read the Newberry Award Winning novel by Katherine Patterson, there is no way we could anticipate what the film was about or what it had to offer. I had read one quick review, which compared it to The Chronicles of Narnia: The Witch and the Wardrobe. Since I loved Narnia so much, I was hoping this film would be just as enchanting. However, what I found in The Bridge to Terebithia was a beautiful reality-based story, which focuses primarily on the friendship between a boy and girl whose lively and vivid imaginations take them on an exciting adventure into a shared fantasy world.
The main character, Jeff (Josh Hutcherson) is a fifth grader whose hard-working parents are beset with financial problems in their struggle to support their family of seven. Picked on and bullied by his classmates and unable to receive much attention from his harried parents at home, Jeff is a loner, escaping into his room to draw in his sketchbook. The day he is scheduled for an important race at school, he is forced to wear his sister’s pink and white athletic shoes as the family does not have the money to buy him a new pair.
The race is won by an attractive newcomer and misfit, Leslie (AnnaSophia Robb), the daughter of two busy and successful writers, who befriends Jeff and draws him into the make-believe world of Terebithia, which is located in a nearby forest. From their throne in a tree –house, they rule over their magical kingdom and those in it. They use their imaginations to escape and create solutions for the problems they face. The forest creatures they concoct are manifestations of their fears and, using their imaginations, they discover creative ways of fighting them off or overcoming them.
The acting of the main characters is charming and their friendship seems very natural and refreshing. What is most impressive about the film are: its sympathetic handling of the problems children face and the portrayal of the beautiful friendship between Jeff and Leslie. It also presents positive messages about the family, relationships with others, and authority figures, which is another plus.
Terebithia is nothing like the fantasy world of Narnia, but is more reality - based. What the film does display are the harsh realities of being a child in the real world: bullying, abusive parents, financially strapped families and dealing with death.
The film is rated PG, but I would not recommend it for small children or for those who are very sensitive or easily frightened.
However, I would recommend this film for older children, depending on their maturity level and ability to cope with the topics mentioned above. It is a tear-jerker so be prepared – bring lots of tissues. Be ready to discuss the movie with your child afterwards.
I give it 4 **** out of a possible 5 stars.