Several seemingly unrelated story lines meander throughout the film, ultimately intersecting at various points later on. One of these intersections occurs between an immigrant shopkeeper, at his wit’s end, and a locksmith, trying to make ends meet for his family. The shopkeeper approaches the locksmith on the street, outside his home as he’s unloading his work van at the end of the day. The shopkeeper is pointing a revolver. His shop has been vandalized and he believes the locksmith is to blame. We, the audience, know the locksmith is innocent. This locksmith, he has a daughter as well as a wife. Earlier in the film, we witness a poignant exchange between father and daughter. The daughter is frightened and her father gives her an “invisible, impenetrable cloak” to keep her safe. He takes it off of himself, delicately, and places it around her neck. Fast forward back to the street and the shopkeeper pointing a revolver at the locksmith. From behind the front screen door, the little girl sees her daddy in danger. She realizes she’s wearing the cloak and that her daddy isn’t. She bursts out of the front door, down the driveway and leaps into her father’s open arms as the shopkeeper accidentally fires the revolver.
This is the point when you want to lose it. It’s a hard scene to watch.
After time returns to the speed of reality you hear the little girl tell her daddy it’s okay because she’s wearing the cloak. The little girl is okay? But how? She couldn’t really have been protected by the power of love. Flashback to when the revolver was purchased, not by the shopkeeper, but by his daughter. The detail they don’t show you earlier in the film? When it’s time to select the bullets she chooses a box of blanks. She doesn’t want her father having a loaded gun.
That’s some pretty good screenwriting. (Thanks, Paul Haggis.)
It’s trippy when you realize the little girl is okay. You know there has to be some twist to explain but you can’t figure it out right away. You also remind yourself that this is a movie which means the little girl is always okay. It’s not real. Even though if feels like reality. This is the power of a well-told story with well-crafted characters.
So what about real life? Isn’t that the story you and I care most about? Aren’t those the characters that most move us? I think this is why great stories are considered great. We can see ourselves inside them. We identify with the characters and their love and loss. We may not be confronted on the street by a weary and armed stranger. But we know what it’s like to hold someone you love in your arms. For some of us, even a daughter. We can begin to approach what it would feel like if we were the locksmith.
On a more relatable level, we often feel exposed to the world, to its demands and its appetite. Some days you just want to wrap yourself in the ones you love most. Like your own personal armor. Or, like a made to measure magic cloak. Whatever the form, there’s nothing like feeling invincible.