“Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping into the future.”
This is a popular line from a Steve Miller Band song, and I believe it adequately sums up the thesis of the movie The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The story of Benjamin Button begins and ends with a clock that ticks in reverse. The final shot of the movie is one of this clock being over-taken with water. Throughout the movie, the clock ticks and Benjamin’s life unfolds without pause.
Benjamin is born old and he ages in reverse. His life is moving in the opposite direction of the rest of the world, and he will only overlap with people that match his age (in physical appearance) for a moment. He doesn’t get to walk through life with his peers because tomorrow he becomes a day younger than he was today thus creating increasing distance with those previously his age.
Because of his curious case, he highlights the passing nature of time. Time passes for all of us, but because Benjamin can only relate to his contemporaries for a short period of time, he is seizing at consecutive fleeting moments. The passing of time controls his life. He sees his childhood friends (octogenarians) die before he is a teenager. He cannot marry and enjoy his wife. He cannot watch his child grow old. Ultimately, he is doomed to pass through life alone because he cannot hold onto any lasting relationships. They all pass away as he grows young, and they grow old.
Finitude is at the forefront of this film. I left the theater overwhelmed with sadness. There is nothing we can do to stop time. There is nothing we can do to preserve a beautiful sunset. There is nothing we can do to hold onto a special relationship. There is nothing we can do to savor a precious moment with our children. Time never ceases to roll on, and we are subjects to its tyranny.
The lesson is that we should grab hold of the moment we are in and celebrate all that life has to offer us in the now. Because of Benjamin’s curious case he was made acutely aware of the transitory nature of the moment, but we forget. Time passes slowly for us, and change is gradual. We become bored and long for tomorrow. What we need is to treasure today. There will never be another day like it.