Film · Storytelling

The Power Of A Story

Spoiler Alert

We’ve just watched the film ‘The Mule,’ starring Clint Eastwood. The premise of the film is that Earl, the character played by Clint Eastwood has put his work as a horticulturist before his family. We see important family occasions – christenings, confirmations, graduations etc where he is absent – on one occasion at a flower show getting an award for his prize winning day lilies.

The film moves forward 12 years – his horticultural business has failed because of competition from firms using the internet more and more, and he is about to lose his whole livelihood.

It’s at this point that an unusual opportunity comes along – to simply drive hundreds of miles across the country and deliver some packages – we soon learn that he is working for a drug cartel transporting large quantities of cocaine.

He agrees to do one trip and buys a new truck with the money he gets. Although he only intended one trip, he does more trips, using the proceeds to save his home, pay for the refurbishment of a veteran’s club and finance his granddaughter’s college education.

The framework of the story is his activity as a drug mule and the attempts of law enforcement who are investigating the drug cartel.

You might ask questions about all the people whose lives are being ruined by taking cocaine, and the violent lives of the cartel members, but that’s not what the story is about. The background of cartel and drug running enables the full power of the family story to come through.

The heart of the story is about Earl’s relationship, or rather lack of relationship with his ex wife and daughter. This is the story of the film, but it is told using the drug running as a way of telling that story.

The film raises questions about story-telling and how legitimate it is to use such an immoral, criminal framework without any comment on the immorality of that surrounding story.

It made me think about some biblical stories, especially in the Old Testament, where we might miss the whole point of the story by focussing on our unease with the way the story is being told.

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