Mr Holland's Opus
This 1995 film will be too sentimental for some tastes, but for me this was an enjoyable and interesting movie. It's a modern take on It's a Wonderful Life in that lives which appear unremarkable -even failed - may actually be the reverse.
The film takes in a span of over 30 years from the early 1960s to the mid 1990s, a time which sees Mr Holland transform from a young man with ambitions to be a composer to a husband, father and eventually retired music teacher.
Mr Holland never becomes rich or famous, and and at times neglects his family in favour of his "vocation" - teaching and music. A most poignant moment is when he is reconciled with his son - who, ironically, is deaf so cannot appreciate or share his father's music. He dedicates to hin John Lennon's Beautiful Boy - the lines
Life is just what happens to you,
While your busy making other plans
which seems to describe Mr. Holland's situation.
Yet at the end - and this is the movie's ultimate message - Mr Holland realises that by shaping the lives of his students he has done more for human happiness than his music was ever likely to do. Maybe meaning through fame and fortune is to be rejected and meaning through ordinary kindnesses and encouragements are more important.
Of course, teaching is one job where the benefits are sometimes - if not always - clear. Psychotherapy is another such job. But what about other jobs - like banking, IT work and being a lawyer. Do other people benefit from these jobs? Can one bring light into people's lives through any job? And does economics teach us that all these jobs are valuable, even if we don't see the benefits? I don't know the answer to these questions, but I do believe that one of the problems of modern society is that people don''t get to see the meaning they create. The James Stewart character in It's a Wonderful Life needed an angel to show him, and Mr. Holland requires a rather improbably grand finale which reunites those he has helped the most.