“October Sky:” A Star of a Movie

As you look up to the night sky you might feel a sense of wonder blossom in your mind. The distinct awareness of your feeble existence may dwarf the problems of the day as you ponder what is up above. Fascination with the sky is nothing new as people throughout the ages have been enraptured by the heavens writing stories, poems and mythos inspired by the stars. The term starstruck comes to mind when describing the kind of feeling that is engendered by the stars. “October Sky” is a movie that I recently watched that perfectly encapsulates the feeling that is so common to us all.

The movie is a biography centered around the life of Homer Hickam and his gang of friends as they embark on a journey to become amateur rocketeers and make their own way in the world. It is a true story which makes the ending all that much more gratifying, but the journey that the movie takes along the way is delicious in a way that I haven’t seen in a movie in a long time. While this movie is a coming of age story of sorts, it has its own distinct feel. It could be compared to the likes of “Dead Poets Society” in its feel, but I am apprehensive to make such a claim. So take that comment with a grain of salt.

A watchthrough is definitely warranted for this movie perhaps a few, the blend of heartbreak combined with  joy makes this movie a rollercoaster of emotions. There is little left to the imagination as the movie portrays the real raw feelings of its characters with the setting in a small mining town in Virginia. Money is tight, tensions are high and Sputnik had just launched and streaked across the night sky. Leaving behind in its wake a revived fear of the Communist party, and in Homer’s case, a newly found dream. As the movie progresses these feelings are transferred from the screen into one’s own life.

The use of rain and dark scenes help underscore the death that is found in the coal mines; everything is covered in a sort of black soot, and this contrasts the joyous faces of the boys at every triumph and turn in the movie. The movie does not shy away from the harshness that can be found not only within the family unit, but within a community. Throughout the movie the boys are fighting against their parents, the economy and even the surrounding town. As the boys continue to hold onto their dreams, the story becomes not only a coming of age story, but a story of triumph with a moral undertone. The message being to follow one’s dreams, as well as to lean on others in the process. 

One part of the movie that I thought was particularly well done was the scenes in which characters were angry with each other, particularly when Homer’s mom smashes their telephone out of frustration. Much of the fighting that happens within the family due to rocketry is messy, but it isn’t portrayed as just shouting matches. Silence is found in these scenes, frustration and weariness. The feeling of anger is palpable as these characters express their feelings. There remains a humanistic element found in the way that John Hickam puts Homer’s things out in the rain out of frustration. He is unreasonable, but not portrayed as an unforgivable monster, just a person who cannot find a good way to express his anger.

The empathy that this movie draws from its viewers allows for an experience that brings the movie much closer to the heart than I would have expected. This movie could have been a cheesy biopic that highlights the real story of Homer Hickam, but instead it tells his story convincingly and artfully.

Sources: IMBD, Wikipedia

Leave a Reply