By mattdentler | Matt Dentler's Blog May 30, 2009 at 4:00AM
In both Pixar's Up and Olivier Assayas' Summer Hours, loved ones are left to tend to the empty house once shared by a deceased family member. How those loved ones react to the family member's death (a wife and a mother, respectively) has profound implications about the manner with which human beings respect the dead and their dying wishes. Both films are touching and smart. Up is particularly thrilling and funny, another win for the Pixar team. In it, an widower is left with the lifelong dream of his deceased wife, and a house that almost personifies her (during the film, he even speaks to the house as if it were his wife). The grieving widower ties balloons through the chimney, and takes the house on a flight to South America to fulfill his wife's wishes. The entire film is filled with patented Pixar imagination and comedy, but it's also an unstoppable statement about the promises we make with our loved ones, and how we fight to keep them.
Summer Hours, on the other hand, is about the promises we make to dying loved ones and the reality that gets in the way from letting us keep them. Assayas' drama (now available on IFC VOD) depicts three French siblings, all estranged and all living in different parts of the globe. When their loving mother dies, the oldest son is faced with fulfilling her wishes for what to do with this beautiful house they've come to call home. The other two siblings (who don't live in France anymore) wanna sell the house and all the valuable assets inside it. What plays out is a tender and tense family drama about the questions adult children must face when the parents are no longer alive. What's portrayed, are the realities that often prevent us from maintaining a loved one's wish no matter how hard we try.