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My Thoughts on A Wrinkle in Time

April 25, 2018 by

A Wrinkle in Time movie poster

Weekends usually develop into two days either ablaze with people and activity or adrift with luxuriously unscheduled white space. This past weekend was neither. Instead I spent two days falling into and out of the fifth dimension where I traveled through space (tessered) first with Madeleine L’Engle, author of the book A Wrinkle in Time, and then with Oprah Winfrey in the much-publicized film by the same name.

I enjoyed both. So did my husband, David. Since sci-fi and adventure films are not what my family usually chooses to watch, the two of us were nearly a virgin audience, unspoiled by such heady sci-fi common denominators as whizzy special effects, ethereal sounds, and bizarre surroundings.

I do concede that the film’s plot line stretches a little thin at times, which is probably due to the impossibility of encapsulating L’Engle’s intriguing story in a mere 109 minute movie. Unexpectedly amusing are Oprah’s show-stopping eyebrows, glitteringly different in each scene, accented by her, Mrs. Whatsit’s, and Mrs. Who’s flamboyant lipsticks and mesmerizing costumes. More important, though, are L’Engle’s truths that shine through the movie: love and light overcome evil and darkness.

Although these remain the rock-solid basis of the movie, they do risk being watered down by the film’s simultaneous message of believing in yourself. If anyone misses this particular thrust of the film, delivered at least twice by the powerful Mrs. Which, the credit theme song swings it home once again.

There is a lot to be said for this point, especially when the protagonist who embodies its success is a young teenager and the targeted audience is young teens and children. Belief in self certainly counts in young lives. However, it resonates more as the mantra of millennials and those who live in the humanistic twenty-first century than it does with L’Engle.

Her book fascinatingly probes the cosmos while keeping the battle between good and evil centered in each heart. The film grasps this, but by espousing self-belief misses what L’Engle knows: all our good intentions cannot overcome the darkness within.

L’Engle understands that evil is more powerful than an individual, no matter how strongly she believes in herself. Anyone with an addiction, depression, or with a mental disorder can tell you this. Sheer will-power, even when clearly directed, is no match for the invasive power of darkness. In film or song, the message of Me-the-Mighty-Warrior works. In real life it does sometimes… and it doesn’t a lot of the time. On this point the movie and L’Engle diverge.

Even though the film proclaims that self-belief is the power that wins, surprisingly the screenwriter showcases L’Engle’s nugget that weakness is an asset. When Meg, the protagonist, hears that her faults are her strength, she proceeds accordingly and gains courage.

God’s conquering love is only a power in its absolute powerlessness, manifested ultimately in Christ on the cross.

L’Engle’s belief in such contradictory wisdom is based on Christ’s answer to the apostle Paul when he begs to be delivered from a frustrating weakness: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). L’Engle turns to Christ for strength, reliably more sustaining than willpower and self-belief. The film of course does not go this far, but it does, to its credit, at least venture into this mind-boggling arena where heroes are not perfect, and our very imperfections can be of value.

In her own life, L’Engle let such a recognition lead her into the startling reality that God’s conquering power of love is not really a power like self-belief or self-actualization. Love does not control or manipulate. It is only a power in its absolute powerlessness, in its release of power, manifested ultimately in Christ on the cross.

This simple truth of powerlessness, although potentially blurred by the motif of self-belief, is poignantly, and perhaps inadvertently, captured near the end of the film. Meg and her little brother Charles Wallace, who has been overcome by the evil power, cry as they tenderly hold each other in the very bowels of defeated darkness. Both have made themselves vulnerable to the other by fervently proclaiming their love for one another. Darkness retreats; Meg and Charles Wallace become intact and miraculously free.

Here we sense the inexplicable, mysterious power of love – in all its vulnerability and its powerlessness. And yet it is precisely here, in this gaspingly naked space, that darkness is defeated and light and good prevail. A Wrinkle in Time, both book and film, are well worth experiencing. They complement one another, and although intended for children, can stretch an adult mind and heart – if you let them.

In her book Bright Evening Star, where Madeleine L’Engle reflects on the mystery of the incarnation, she writes briefly and tellingly about her book A Wrinkle in Time, some of which is included in this blog.


About the author

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Ann Morrissey

Ann Morrissey lives in Beech Grove, a Bruderhof in England, with her husband, Dave. They delight in the English countryside...

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  • Having read the blog, I thought I'd better read the book. Which I duly did. Well, having expected something along the lines of J K Rowling's magic in Harry Potter, I was really brought down to earth by the sheer nonsense of this book. It simply did nothing for me; I felt rushed along into a world of childish dreams of good and bad. I didn't think the author did justice to the themes, but knowing it was for children, I made allowances. Got to the end and felt cheated. Sorry, not for me!

    Judith Scollard
  • Ann, your review and commentary makes me want to read/see this, especially the debate about weakness (perceived by whom?) versus strength- again maybe a cultural value.

    Sue Prochak
  • I agree with David! Bravo! You did it! And now I must reread the book, for it's been forty years. Not sure I care to see the movie, not being a fan of its star. Thank you, Ann! The stands ARE going wild!

  • True confessions: I've often dropped the ball, never dreamed of hitting a home run, but am nonetheless gratified that the stands are going wild. Thank you, David. Ann

    Ann Morrissey
  • Thank you, Jacquie, once you've both read the book, I'll bet you would enjoy watching the film together. Ann

    Ann Morrissey
  • Having read your Blog am interested to read the book, which I had just purchased, before reading what you had to say. I shall then pass the book onto my granddaughter.

    Jacquie Watson
  • Bravo, sister! I was at first hesitant to read this blog for fear you would drop the ball, either regarding the book, the film, or L'Engle herself. But you didn't. This is a home run-- the stands go wild. David

    David M.