“Shawshank Redemption”: Hope and Other Themes

“Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.” Andy, The Shawshank Redemption

A good bit of “movie therapy” (see yesterday’s post) could be had from watching The Shawshank Redemption (1994). When you’re feeling down or downtrodden, nothing beats an injection of hope, one of the main themes of the highest-rated film on IMDB’s top 250 and one of my own personal favorites. 

Shawshank Redemption. “Shawshank” is a prison in which Andy (Tim Robbins), an innocent man convicted of murder, bonds with Red (Morgan Freeman), an admitted killer. “Redemption” is what ultimately happens. You have to watch it to find out how.

Redemption, freedom, friendship, oppression, time, patience, loyalty, justice—and yes, hope. All are themes of this well-done and highly praised movie.

The trailer’s below:

Male friendship.

Ed GonzalezSlant calls it “…Beaches for straight men.”

Friendship/Justice.

Janet Maslin, New York Times: “Without a single riot scene or horrific effect, it tells a slow, gentle story of camaraderie and growth, with an ending that abruptly finds poetic justice in what has come before.”

Oppression and self-oppression.

Rita KempleyWashington Post: “A detailed portrait of the routine of cellblock life, ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ might change a few minds about the usefulness of incarceration in terms of rehabilitation. Mostly, though, it reminds us of that we all hold the keys to our own prisons.”

Justice.

Leonard Klady, Variety: “Ultimately, ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ is about the dominance of real justice. That element of the narrative keeps the movie from descending into abject resignation.”

Time, patience, loyalty, friendship, hope.

Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times: “‘The Shawshank Redemption’ is a movie about time, patience and loyalty — not sexy qualities, perhaps, but they grow on you during the subterranean progress of this story, which is about how two men serving life sentences in prison become friends and find a way to fight off despair…”

HOPE.

Andrew Howe, efilmcritic.comabout Andy: “He may have lost everything he held dear, but he knows that life does not end until the day you draw your terminal breath, so he narrows his focus and takes refuge in his dreams of a better tomorrow. His existence reminds us of how much there is to lose, but also how much there is to gain, and is a source of solace for anyone who has ever felt their life begin to slip through their hands.”

James Berardinelli, Reel Views:

His unwillingness to surrender hope wins him the admiration of some and the contempt of others, and allows the audience to identify with him that much more strongly…

The Shawshank Redemption is all about hope and, because of that, watching it is both uplifting and cathartic.

“Hope, redemption, deliverance, and new beginnings.”

Benjamin Hale, Examiner:

…But the goal of The Shawshank Redemption is not to focus on the despair of the world we live in, but to show the viewer how that hope, and the preservation of that hope, is a good thing, maybe the best of things. Andy never gives up hope, even at his darkest hours, quietly enduring his oppression and unjust imprisonment with strength and patience that few people retain in such situations…

Amongst prison movies, The Shawshank Redemption is one of the few, if not the only, where we truly feel as if we ourselves are the main character. Not observing him, but that we are him. It’s a timeless tale of hope, redemption, deliverance, and new beginnings.

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