Making the Grades
Life in a small Pennsylvania farming town takes on an eerie undercurrent for Graham Hess (Mel Gibson) and his family when a five-hundred-foot crop circle appears in their cornfield. Unable to explain it, Hess and the local law enforcement officer (Cherry Jones) chalk it up as a possible hoax until news channels around the world begin reporting similar phenomena.
Suddenly the former Episcopalian minister is forced to face the possibility of a looming danger from another sphere. With the help of his brother Merrill (Joaquin Phoenix), he tries to maintain a fa0xE7ade of calm for the sake of his children, Morgan (Rory Culkin) and Bo (Abigail Breslin). But the family, already dealing with personal heartbreak, is soon assaulted with growing fears as media outlets report increased activity of a supernatural sort.
Despite what the movie's trailers may indicate, Director/Writer M. Night Shyamalan gives very little on screen time to aliens. That's fortunate considering the space invaders are little more than the standard fare with enlarged craniums and body suits more appropriate for Olympic speed skaters. Instead he uses the threat of an impending invasion as a venue to probe universal questions. How do we react in times of mounting trouble or individual tragedy? Is there a higher being who makes divine intercessions or are the events in life the result of coincidence and chance?
In the meantime, the movie gives audiences some good scare scenes (something Shayamalan seems to do well considering the success of his previous film, The Sixth Sense). His creepy depiction of rustling corn stalks, clanging wind chimes and moving shadows suggest the presence of foreign life forms and gives imaginations a chance to run rampant which is exactly what parents might want to avoid. Although other content concerns are comparatively minor, the escalating suspense may leave pre-teens on the edge of your bed before the night is over. (I admit I was ready to take down the wind chimes when I got home.)
After yielding to a rather insufficient conclusion, Signs still postulates that there are more than crop dusters flying overhead.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Signs.
Graham Hess says there are two kinds of people; those who believe in a higher being and those who believe in chance. To which group do you belong? Would a serious personal plight or the threat of impending devastation make you change from one to the other?
How did Graham’s inability to face or forgive Ray Reddy contribute to his feelings about God?
The occurrence of crop circles gained lots of media coverage during the 1970’s and 80’s. While they are no longer a top news story, sightings of these interesting designs continue to be recorded. You can follow their history at http://www.lovely.clara.net/history.html.