Jess Aarons (played by Josh Hutcherson) is a pre-teen boy living on a farm who is constantly bullied at school; the only bright spot at school is his success as an athlete and runner. However, he is beaten when the new girl joins the all-male team at the starting line and races ahead of everyone else. Jess soon learns that the girl, Leslie Burke (AnnaSophia Robb), lives nearby, and they again race down a country road and into the woods that envelop the countryside. They come to a creek where Leslie spies an old rope and decides that it will be their gateway, or "bridge," to the wonderful and mystical land of Terabithia.
Jess and Leslie become friends when Jess helps her avoid one meanest girls in 8th grade (Janice). Leslie sees Jess’ art and is one of the few people who supports his hobby. Leslie is also the one who cheers Jess’ spirits when he feels down. One could say that Jess’ art are what draw the two together.
The land of Terabithia provides a sort of "escape" for Jess and Leslie. Their adventures provide a means of fighting the bullies at school and giving them a sense of hope. Jess always feels encouraged when visiting the secret place in the woods and repairing the broken-down treehouse. The human need to improve one’s surroundings is evinced by Leslie’s idea to get bells for their secret treehouse. There is also a distinct line between the real world and the "imagined" computer-generated one, but the graphics seem to blend in perfectly without drawing attention to themselves.
There is a distinct contrast between Jess’ family and Leslie’s. Jess’ father is portrayed as a hard man who largely ignores Jess and gives him little pity for much of the film. The only love appears to be directed towards the younger daughter, and Jess’ other two sisters are found to be vain, superficial girls who are only interested in clothes and boys. Leslie’s family, however, is seen as a fun-loving, happy family when Jess visits while they are re-painting their house.
When Jess encounters trouble in his life, he is realistically portrayed in the light of a touchy, emotional boy that instantly draws sympathy from the audience. His family really comes together and changes to become quieter and more thoughtful. Ultimately, though, Jess overcomes his fear and anger to become closer to those around him.
At one point in the film, Jess mentions that he goes to church, and Leslie decides to go along deciding that it will be "fun." Leslie is not disappointed, thinking the story of God’s enduring love to be "beautiful." However, Maybel, Jess’ sister, is quick to point out that if you don’t believe the Bible "God will damn you to hell when you die." Leslie doesn’t believe this, indicating the beauty of God’s creation as if God were limited to just the excellent acts in the world. Neither of these viewpoints are complete views of God. Perhaps the best way to reconcile these ideas is that the beauty of God’s virtue cannot abide the depravity of man’s sin.
This is truly a wonderful movie, one to watch again and again. The great aspects are all there, from the great acting, the deep relationships, the breathtaking scenery, and the excellent portrayal of family life. All said, this is an excellent movie that everyone should try to watch.
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