Copyright © 2007 Ed Bagley
The Five People You Meet in Heaven – 2 Stars (Average)
For anyone who has read Mitch Albom’s book Tuesdays With Morrie, it was axiomatic to read The Five People You Meet in Heaven and then see the movie.
Albom was asked why it took him so long between his first two books, he said “To be honest, I was a bit overwhelmed by Tuesdays’ success. At first, nobody wanted to publish that book or talk much about it.
“Then, suddenly, all anyone wanted me to do was write a sequel. I knew I didn’t want to do that. I said everything in that book that I had to say about the last class between Morrie and me. So I waited until something inspired me the way that book did. It just happened to take six years.”
When asked if anything Morrie had said led to the story line of “Five People” he revealed the fact that “Morrie often told a story about waves, and how when they hit the shore they ceased to exist-unless you realized that, in truth, they weren’t really waves at all, they were part of the ocean.
“Morrie saw himself that way, as part of something connected to a bigger humanity. In the Five People, I sort of explore that idea, that we are all connected to each other in ways we don’t even realize, and that perhaps, when your life is over, you may find out all the other ‘waves’ in this big ocean that you affected without even knowing it.”
These insights show the integrity and sensitivity of Mitch Albom, who also penned the movie script for his book. Albom works for the Detroit Free Press and is arguably one of best sportswriters in the United States. His work in “Five People” shows flashes of his pure writing talent.
The Five People You Meet in Heaven is the story of Eddie (Jon Voight), a simple man living a simple life as a maintenance man who has a regret and an ache in his heart.
He spends his entire life berating himself because he never left the amusement park to pursue his dream of becoming an engineer. He blames everyone but himself for not getting on in the world. This is his regret, and he feels that his life has been wasted.
Eddie dies on his 83rd birthday while trying to save a little girl from a falling cart in a roller coaster ride gone bad, and develops an ache in his heart. With his final breath, he feels two small hands in his as he tries to pull the girl away-and then nothing.
He dies not knowing if he saved the girl’s life or not.
He awakens in Heaven and is destined to meet five people, loved ones and distant strangers who form a thread in his life that when woven into a fabric explain the meaning of his life.
Each person shares with Eddie a lesson in life that he failed to learn on Earth.
Albom’s writing skills shine through in these memorable quotes from the five characters:
Ruby: “Holding anger is a poison. It eats you from inside. We think that by hating someone we hurt them. But hatred is a curved blade. And the harm we do to others, we also do to ourselves.”
Blue Man: “There are no random acts. We are all connected. You can no more separate one life from another than you can separate a breeze from the wind.”
Blue Man: “In heaven, there is no judgment, but rather an opportunity to examine our lives-who we touched, the choices we made, and the consequences of those choices.”
Blue Man: “Strangers are family you have yet to come to know.”
Marguerite (Eddie’s wife who precedes him in death): “Lost love is still love, Eddie. It just takes a different form, that’s all. You can’t hold their hand, you can’t tousle their hair. But when those senses weaken another one comes to life. Memory. Memory becomes your partner. You hold it. You dance with it. Life has to end, Eddie. Love doesn’t.”
Be forewarned that The Five People You Meet in Heaven can and probably will bring tears to your eyes, and make your throat retract and become sore with tension. This is no movie for children of any age, adults can hardly deal with it and attempt to understand the subject matter and significance of its message.
This movie has an incredible ending that allows Eddie to finally understand the meaning of his life. I will not reveal the ending here, you must see the ending to earn its blessing.
This is an extremely complicated story, and the movie does not make the story any easier to understand and follow. It forces us to examine our existence here on earth; however, the story and the movie are worth the effort if you have any spiritual development.
The only other movie I have seen more complicated to understand is The Hours, which was far more miserable, depressing and dramatically overdone despite some serious Oscar attention (Best Actress Oscar for Nicole Kidman and 8 other nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director Stephen Daldry, Best Supporting Actor Ed Harris and Best Supporting Actress Julianne Moore).
Because of its complexity The Five People You Meet in Heaven earned little, if any, critical acclaim or accolades. This is why I write reviews. With no one to sing its praises, the voice of understanding goes silent. Silence is a void that is unbearable.
Perhaps Albom’s effort falls short of reaching more people because he is a writer and not a philosopher. A writer like Albom can craft a beautiful sentence that a reader like me can appreciate. A philosopher can craft another sentence that immediately strikes a chord with nearly everyone.
Great poets often achieve this heartfelt effect, perhaps they are philosophers too.
I would have given The Five People You Meet in Heaven a 3 rating in a heartbeat (very high in my system) if it were not so difficult for viewers to digest and appreciate. I would see this movie again, and was a better person for having seen it the first time.