Whenever I hear someone say — “I only go to movies to be entertained” — I‘m disappointed. Good filmmaking is an art, and the function of art is to do much more than entertain. Ideally, art evokes a meaningful emotional experience in the viewer. Art stimulates us to think about life, the world, or ourselves in a new or different way.
Not all movies are art, of course. Some of them are a dreadful waste of time. But a good film, an artful film, is a good story well-told.
Several elements constitute a good story, and I’ll write about these in a future post. However, a good story doesn’t teach or preach. Samuel Goldwyn said : “If you want to send a message, call Western Union.” A good film, or any good story well-told — a novel, a play, an episode of your favorite television series — does more than entertain. Even a comedy, a good comedy, does more than make you laugh. A good comedy tells a good story. A good story connects with its audience on an emotional level and in a meaningful way.
So next time you see a movie that you really enjoy, ask yourself: Was this a good story? Did it have a protagonist that I cared about? Did the protagonist have a clear goal, not easy to attain? Did he or she change in some significant way by the end of the story? Did the story move me emotionally? Was it thought-provoking? If your answer to most of these questions is ‘yes’, you’ve hit the jackpot.