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Why I Avoided '127 Hours' and Why I Was Wrong

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Mar 11, 2011 | 5:16am EST

127 hoursWhen 127 Hours was first released, I refused to see it. Instead, I filled my time with viewings of Due Date, Megamind, and Black Swan. I even continued to keep my distance after I learned it was nominated for Oscars and Golden Globes. And just this past weekend, I chose to see Take Me Home Tonight when I could have seen 127 Hours at that very same theater at the very same time. My reason for electing to see Take Me Home Tonight wasn’t because I was afraid of how graphic the amputation scene would be (I actually do quite well with gore and I’d already read several accounts of what it was like). But rather, I was turned off because I didn’t want to be put in the situation where I’d have to feel sympathy for a character so self-assured; galloping through canyons, waving around his supreme confidence. I didn’t want to like a person who treated the people around him recklessly. But upon viewing it on DVD this weekend, I realized I was sorry I waited so long to see it.

But let’s back up for a second. Do I need to tell you what 127 Hours is about? Probably not, right? But just in case you’re doing what I was doing and are intentionally blocking it out, it’s the story of Aron Ralston, who was forced to amputate his right arm after it became trapped by a boulder while he was hiking Blue John Canyon in Utah. It’s a miraculous testimonial to resilience, will power, and complete and total triumph over every possible odd, and that includes the odds of those odds. In fact, I liked it so much that once it had ended, I queued it right back up again and played it from the beginning. I admit that by not seeing it in the theaters, I had failed at the whole movie-going experience. And for that I am somewhat ashamed.

Let me try and be more clear about why I decided against seeing 127 Hours for so long. I assume it had a lot to do with how overly cautious I personally am, and the movie was about someone who got himself into a bad situation because he wasn’t cautious. Granted, Ralston was an experienced hiker and he had a clear sense of which events he needed to be prepared for and which events were less likely to occur, but as someone who fears everything and overpacks and must always be near a water supply, the thought of watching a movie about a man who almost dies because he’s trapped and doesn’t have access to what he needed to survive sounded torturous to me. Essentially, it validated all the reasons why I prepare for the unlikely, made even my most irrational fears seem like impending disasters.

I was also acutely aware that if I were to see the movie, I would be forced to confront my limitations. Everyone likes to think that if a boulder was crushing one of their arms and the only way to survive would be to perform an amputation, they could do it. But when the strength and tenacity and complete pain that is involved in that process was portrayed as well and as extreme as I knew it would be in 127 Hours, I believed people would emerge from the theater with the realization that if they were in Aron Ralston’s shoes, they would have died rather than enduring what was needed to if they were going to survive. And I did not want to be one of those people. I would much rather walk out of a theater with pains in my hips from laughing so hard than I would with a bleak outlook on how I’d be incapable of keeping myself alive in a serious situation.

So when I was tired of listening to my boyfriend tell me he was having dreams that he saw 127 Hours (he never saw it because I, basically, wouldn't let him), I finally gave in and brought the DVD to my house so we could watch it. We both had the same reaction: visually, we were blindsided, and by the end we were exhausted -- emotionally (obviously) and also physically because of how tight our muscles and jaws clenched with Franco whenever he tried to lift the boulder off himself. We both realized there was no way we would have ever been able to sit through it in the theater without getting escorted outside for disturbing the people around us shifting by our weight back and forth in our seats out of anxiety. But above everything, I was most surprised by how Ralston wasn't really depicted to be the jerk I thought he would be. For some reason, I had been talked into believing that Ralston was a guy who didn't care about anybody but himself, when that's completely untrue. Franco showed how deeply Ralston cared for his family, and it's just that his unflinching love for being alone in the wilderness can be confused with a man who's aloof and narcissistic.  In actuality, Ralston's love for his family is one of the main reasons he's alive.

I guess what I'm saying is what started as me rejecting a movie because I was unwilling to do what I thought it would ask me to do (which was sympathize with Aron Ralston, who again, I had deemed an unlikeable character based on how I had been told he rejected his family and friends in favor of the outdoors) ended up being a huge mistake. I thought that Danny Boyle was going to present to me this horrific accident and expect me to be down on my knees and wailing over Ralston's perseverance when in fact, he was the one who didn't leave a note telling anyone where he was going! And of course when I saw it, I was in awe of Ralston and very conscious of how remarkable of a man he is. I'll be lucky if I can be a fraction of the survivor that he is. So I suppose I regret not considering that when I was avoiding the movie, I was missing out on a really great experience. 

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