I didn't imagine I would be taking my children to see a Martin Scorsese film - at least not for some time - and yet last night Mr Neat and I took Miss 10 and Mr 8 to see Hugo, a movie that I'd describe as one of the best films I've seen in a decade.
Hugo is set in post-WWI France. Young Hugo Cabret is an orphan who lives and works in secret and the Paris railway. He is alone and every day is a struggle to eat, work and live without being captured by the station officer who zealously sends orphans to the Paris orphanage.
But Hugo has a purpose. He is trying to fix a mechanical figure, an automaton, that his father had found abandoned and in disrepair. Hugo's future seems inextricably connected to the workings of this beautifully made piece of machinery.
Through his attempts to procure machine parts he encounters the fiercely melancholy Georges Méliès and his warm-hearted god-daughter Isabelle.
Scorsese's film is about many things. It's a love letter to film makers and film lovers. It's a testimony to the power of kindness. It muses on the value of dreams and art and creativity. And there is a strong spiritual element that resonates throughout the narrative.
Hugo explains to Isabelle that machines have every part that they need. There is nothing superfluous. Everything has a purpose. Every piece is important. It's like that with the world. If you imagine the world as machine then every person is important. Everyone has a purpose. If someone loses or forgets their purpose then they are broken, they need mending. This is especially true of Georges Méliès but it's also true of the station officer whose brokenness goes far beyond the obvious physical damage wrought by WWI.
Hugo is deeply moving. And as a Christian believer I was particularly struck by the idea of purpose. It caused me to reflect on our purpose as created beings - to love and worship our creator in what we think and do. When we forget or refuse to do this we become broken and alienated from our purpose in life.
Beautifully made with a gloriously French score, Hugo is one of Scorsese's best films. Its PG-rating and the centrality of children means it will be classed as a children's film but it is a story that adults will love as well.