Bridge to Terabithia
All Jesse Aarons (Josh Hutcherson) needs is someone to believe in him -- anyone. At home, he's overrun with sisters and has to suffer the indignity of wearing the older one's hand-me-downs and sharing a room with the younger two. His harried mother (Kate Butler) continually frets over unpaid bills, and Jesse's dad (Robert Patrick) is distant and demanding of his son, rather than making sure the boys stick together -- which men often do when they are outnumbered.
On the bus and at the school, it isn't any better. There seems to be something that makes his class mates down right mean and nasty (some of the teachers aren't much better). In fact, the only time Jesse feels any freedom is when he's running or drawing. Unfortunately, even the satisfaction of being the fastest kid in junior high is dampened when he's beat at a big race by none other than the new girl at school.
The rich, fresh-from-the-city student is the only child of two fiction writers who have moved into the vacant house at the end of Jesse's lane. The unconventional family doesn't have a TV, for fear it will harm Leslie (AnnaSophia Robb), whose imagination obviously hasn't been hurt by the deprivation. This free spirit dresses and acts decidedly different than the other adolescents she goes to class with. However, despite their differences, Leslie offers Jesse the one thing he can't find anywhere else -- a willingness to believe in him.
Soon the two outsiders become fast friends and create their own fantastical world called Terabithia. (Unlike the magical wardrobe in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Jesse and Leslie need only a swinging rope to get them across the creek and into their forest kingdom.)
Deep in the woods, they discover the remains of an abandoned tree house. Using discarded scrapes and salvaged finds, they enhance the secret hideaway that becomes their castle, and from there they contend with magical giants, mystical creatures and tree-tall trolls that inhabit their land. Yet, every evening the twosome must return to the real world where bullies, poverty and heartbreak are part of the fabric of life.
Like the book, written by Katherine Paterson, the storyline deals with the challenges of childhood that are sometimes dismissed by adults too concerned with their own worries. Finding a safe place (in this case the made-up land of Terabithia) to work through those difficulties can be paramount to successfully navigating the growing up years. However for younger viewers, the brief encounters with aggressive fantasy creatures and the bullies at school might prove scary. As well, an unexpected tragedy and the guilt that follows may be disturbing.
Still the film brings depth to many of the main characters, exposing both their flaws and their strengths. Also it portrays the power of friendship to draw out the best in others and create confidence in them. And nothing is as magical as that.