We haven’t had a ton of success taking Ryan to the movies over the years. His issues weren’t sensory — the overly loud previews don’t seem to bother him at all, for example — but rather attention span. Ryan couldn’t stay engaged with anything that lasted 90 minutes or more.
We did OK with some typical kid fare like Despicable Me and The Muppets, but Ryan still grew bored. He would get agitated with the length of the movie, start needing to go to the bathroom every 15 minutes, and pester us with questions about when it would be over. Basically, he disengaged. Getting him to the end of a film became a test of wills.
Still, we determined to keep trying. We had a minor breakthrough last summer when we all but forced him to watch Miracle on DVD, and he loved it. But even that was at home, broken up over a couple of viewing sessions (and Ryan attempted to keep track of the shots on goal during the hockey scenes).
All we needed was a movie with subject matter that appealed to him. When 42, the Jackie Robinson biopic, came out, Veronica saw an opportunity. Ryan’s sports interests have begun to branch out beyond hockey, and he even picked a favorite baseball team this season (the Washington Nationals). Plus, he knew a bit about Robinson from school.
That’s how we found ourselves at the 9:30 a.m. screening of 42 a few weekends ago. I had my doubts — the movie was over two hours long, and while baseball is still better than anything non-sports in Ryan’s world, it wasn’t hockey. I was feeling less optimistic after we had to sit through a full 15 minutes of previews for summer action blockbusters, none of which interested Ryan in the least. Aside — when will we learn to come to the movies a few minutes late?
But once the movie started, Ryan quickly showed he was engaged. His questions came in rapid-fire succession from the opening scenes and continued throughout the film. This wasn’t the result of boredom or a stalling technique. He was genuinely interested in understanding the storyline.
He went to the bathroom, but sprinted back into the theater to avoid missing much. As soon as he sat back down, the questions continued. It was exhausting, but I was thrilled that he was so engaged in the story. There’s no way he could have remained so connected to a movie even a few years ago — no mater the topic.
As Robinson made his way through the Dodgers’ minor-league system, Ryan kept asking, “Why is he still on Montreal? When is he going to be on Brooklyn?” He smiled when Robinson finally made his major-league début. He asked questions about racism. He was confused any time a white crowd did not boo Robinson. He asked about baseball strategy — apparently stealing bases is UNFAIR. He asked about … everything.
As soon as the credits rolled, Ryan announced — loudly — to the theater, “That was the best movie I’ve ever seen! I want to see it again tomorrow and the next day and the next day!”
Some of the few fellow attendees at the early show chuckled. But I was all smiles. Not only had a door been opened a crack as Ryan accepted the idea that a two-hour movie could interest him, but he proved to himself that he could watch the entire thing without getting bored.
We haven’t been back to see 42 again, but we are actively seeking the next drama that might interest him. That’s something I couldn’t imagine myself saying even a few months ago.
We’ll be first in line for tickets.