The Green Mile
What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this movie has a horrifyingly graphic execution scene. Talk to teens who see the movie about Coffey's wish to be put out of his misery, which could be seen by sensitive kids as an argument in favor of suicide.
What's the story?
In THE GREEN MILE, Paul Edgecombe (Tom Hanks) is a Depression-era Louisiana prison guard. His responsibility is the prisoners on Death Row, called "The Green Mile" because of the color of the floor between the cells and the electric chair. New prisoner John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan) is a huge black man convicted of raping and murdering two little girls. He is a gentle man with a mysterious power to heal. Edgecombe treats the prisoners with kindness, partly because it is the best way to maintain order, but also because he is a fair and compassionate man. In sharp contrast, another guard is petty and cruel, and a far more evil man than any of the prisoners.
Is it any good?
This is a thoughtful, intelligent movie with outstanding direction. The plot veers into melodrama at times, with at least one coincidence that is overly convenient, but the humanity of the guards keeps the movie on track most of the time. Hanks is the American ideal, just, kind, capable, decent. Bonnie Hunt's performance as Edgecombe's loyal, wise, patient, and very loving wife is a pleasure to watch. Doug Hutchison is terrific as Percy, the nephew of the governor's wife who is assigned to work for Edgecombe, and whose combined arrogance and insecurity lead to disaster. And Michael Clarke Duncan is deeply moving, showing us both Coffey's innocence and his dignity.
It's pretty easy to make a movie where the hero saves the Earth from asteroids or blasts the bad guys into smithereens, because those kinds of battles give us lots of very cool stuff to look at. It's a lot harder to make a movie like this one, holding our attention with heroism in small moments and unlikely places. Teens, who often feel that the problems of the world are too overwhelming to address, can learn from this movie that a small courtesy can have an enormous impact.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the idea that a person might have an extraordinary talent to heal, where that power might come from, and what the responsibilities and burdens might be. Must that ability be accompanied, as it is in John Coffey, with the agonizing experience of "feeling the pain of the world?" Can a person be a healer without experiencing the pain he relieves in others? Must a person whose entire existence is about healing be willing to destroy? What can be healed, and what can not? And why set this story on Death Row? The characters tell us that "What happens on the Mile stays on the Mile. Always has." What rules are different in these direst of circumstances, and why?