I Cried a Lot in 2016, But Only at the Movies

The young people would tell me I had all the feels in 2016. Actually, way too many my age would say the same. I know I brought plenty of emotional baggage to the theater in 2016, and in return, this past year of cinema made me tear up, quiver, tremble, and blubber like a baby. I blame Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, J.A. Bayona, Alex R. Hibbert, and Sunny Pawar, among others. I’ll even hand out awards at the end (because we need more movie awards).

Part of me doesn’t even want to write this because it means I’ll probably be reaching for a tissue or two. But we must sacrifice for our art, or in this case, an internet article.

In general, I cry more in the theater than in real life. But it’s not like I bawl my eyes out, and use a whole box of tissues to get through a film. I never plan on crying, but I do have a technique. I let the tears stream. No wiping. Additionally, my body magically helps me by only letting tears fall out of the opposite eye as the person I’m sitting next to. I’m not kidding. It’s my super power.

Before we officially get started, Collateral Beauty can see itself out now. No matter how bad you wanted it, this doesn’t include you.

There were a stream of moments like Pete’s Dragon making me feel like I had been hit by a truck in that wonderful, silent, opening sequence. Hacksaw Ridge surprised the heck out of me when Andrew Garfield’s Desmond Doss simply would not quit, and I thought how impossible that would be, and how much spirit and faith that must take and … waterworks. The Meddler and Hello, My Name is Doris were too charming, thanks to Susan Sarandon and Sally Field, not to get a little misty-eyed at their struggles. Viggo Mortensen’s character in Captain Fantastic tries too much as a parent for me not to tear up. Eddie the Eagle had a dim underdog. Yes, sometimes I’m that simple.

The Eagle Huntress had a young woman full of so much hope, and a father who so fully supported her, that I briefly wished one of my sons would change into a daughter so I could find her an eagle of her own. Or maybe it’s just the word eagle in a movie title. The Light Between Oceans gives us Rachel Weisz’s Hannah Roennfeldt hoping for another chance with her child, then having that precious little girl reject her. Trust me, become a parent and watch a performance where a child refuses to give a deserving parent love, it destroys you. Swiss Army Man had enough farting to cry from laughter, but that ending reminded me exactly what a deep depression feels like. Manchester by the Sea … if you’ve seen it, you know what moment made me do it.

The films I just mentioned are all icing on the crying cake. They aren’t the ones that truly crushed my soul, so now it’s onto the awards.

The “One Word” award goes to Midnight Special when Shannon’s Roy says “Alton” to his son. In that moment, he stared at his child, knowing he was about to lose him forever. He had to say something, but couldn’t say anything more. He did everything for that kid, even if that meant saying goodbye, even though he technically couldn’t.

Jackie gets the “Duh” award. I never processed how sad it was for Jackie Kennedy to lose her husband. Driving down the road, holding her husband’s brains in her hands (spoiler alert), and seeing the look on Portman’s face is one of the most beautifully devastating scenes of the year.

The “Can Someone Please Give that Kid a Hug and Never Let Go?” award is a tie between Moonlight and Lion. I want to watch those films every time I might get slightly annoyed with my boys. It’s the perfect medicine.

The “How Could I?” award goes to A Monster Calls because the first two-thirds of the film desperately announces, “You’re going to cry,” and I kept saying, “Sorry, movie. Not this time. I see what you’re doing and it’s not working.” The last third was a constant stream of trying to see past my tears and wondering when it would end so I could go clean myself up. I blame this on it being at the last day of Fantastic Fest, and my body was ready to crash. Also, Bayona should be forced by law to direct a child in every movie. See The Orphanage and The Impossible for more examples.

Finally, the award for “Most Crying I’ve Ever Done During and After a Movie” goes to Arrival. (It takes the top spot from Good Will Hunting.) Arrival was magical. (Actual spoilers ahead.) It was the twist, plus realizing that Adams’ Louise was, in a sense, signing up for parenthood a second time. She knew tragedy would come, that every moment of joy would be tinged with sadness, and yet she went forward. I left the theater and attempted to talk to three people over the next half hour. I had my sunglasses on to hide my red, swollen eyes. I explained why my shirt was wet with tears, and then I would start to whimper again and my lip would shake. I had to step away and try and recover.

The second time I saw Arrival was with my wife. I didn’t know how she would feel: hate me for making her feel that, or love me for sharing it? When it ended, I thought maybe I had overreacted the first time — until we got to our car, I spoke half a sentence, and we both started weeping. No film has earned more tears from me than Arrival.

Jeff Bayer will probably cry a lot in 2017.