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>heart to heartphoto © 2006 Divya Vibha Sharma | more info (via: Wylio)

Recently, my wife and I saw the film, Mr. Popper’s Penguins. It’s apparently based upon a children’s book of the same name, which having never read it, I can’t comment upon.

Having seen the film, I can say this: the movie has heart. And honestly, that’s what’s important to me: how much, or how little, heart a film (or book, or whatever) has. While not a great film, it’s nevertheless a good one–because it has heart. (I realize this is a very subjective opinion, but hey!, it’s my blog). Anyway, it’s better than any film about a man turning his New York penthouse into a penguin house has any right to be.

I say this because again, despite the silliness inherent in the plot, it’s really about a man finding his heart. In fact, the backstory is a sobering, and altogether too real, one: a little boy, Thomas Popper, for all intents and purposes, has grown up without his dad.

This had emotional weight, had resonance, with me–because I grew up much the same: without my dad. I imagine with the divorce statistics being what they are, I’m not alone in this. But I digress.

With this framework, it’s very easy to see how the character of Thomas Popper turned out as he did: shallow, an overachiever, disconnected from his kids, divorced, and lonely.

And what did it take to break through his defenses, his carefully constructed veneer? Penguins. Penguins sent as a final gift from his explorer father. Thomas Popper learned, for once, to care about something–or someone–other than himself.

I see this altogether too often in children of divorce, this drive to protect the self. Indeed, I’ve lived it. But again, I digress.

In learning to care for the penguins, Tom found something fragile and unexpected: his heart. And in so doing, he found his way back home–past his careful constructed persona, and into the arms, and hearts, of his children and ex-wife.

In finding his heart, he got the one thing he always wanted, but dared not hope for: a second chance.

And like It’s a Wonderful Life before it, that’s a beautiful thing.

Thanks for reading!

Question: have you seen this movie? What do you think of it? How have you reclaimed your heart?