Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Sparrows (1926)

Who's in it?: Mary Pickford (she has cameos in a couple of my silent favorites - Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ and The Black Pirate - but the actual Pickford movies I've seen are "What the Daisy Said" and Daddy-Long-Legs)

What's it about?: A bunch of kids in slavery to an evil dude in the middle of a swamp are led and cared for by the oldest in their group (Pickford) who attempts to keep them well and hopeful about deliverance.

How is it?: I was interested in the swamp setting and Southern Gothic feel, but wasn't prepared for how harrowing the story is. The danger for the kids is real, both under the abuse of their captor and his family and in the swamp itself once the kids try to escape. And through all of it is Pickford's characteristically charming performance as Molly, the one bright spot in their world.

But even Molly and her service are complicated. She tries to keep the kids' spirits up through faith in the providence of God, but some of the group are beginning to doubt. Molly refers a lot to a quote by Jesus Christ about God's caring for valueless creatures like sparrows: "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows" (Matthew 10:29-31). But if that's true, some of the children wonder, then why hasn't God rescued them?

Christ's statement and the movie both raise a lot of questions about providence and Sparrows doesn't offer any pat answers. It ultimately encourages accompanying faith with action, and you can build a whole other theological discussion around the implications of that. I loved the film.

Metaphysical themes aside, it's also just a gripping survival movie that had me tense in all the right moments.

Rating: Five out of five swamp escapes


Zeke said...

I saw this entry and immediately thought of the swamp rescue plot of Disney's "The Rescuers".

Michael May said...

Yes! They'd make an excellent double-feature.

Dang. I need to watch The Rescuers again.


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