Kubo and the Two Strings (2016) by Travis Knight
Personal Essay / Review by Jessica Carr
(Read original review by Andrew Swafford here)
This essay is dedicated to the late Kenneth Carr
I wasn’t ever particularly close with my dad’s father. He was a kind man, but had very traditional values.
Born and raised in Tennessee, he had a very specific lens that he saw the world through. But, all that changed when his son married a Filipino woman. My mother was a foreigner in the eyes of my dad’s all-white family. With one phone call, my grandfather heard that his eldest son had married a brown woman behind his back. He told my dad that he was cut off and to never return home.
It’s not hard to draw parallels between my parent’s love story and that displayed between Kubo’s parents. My grandfather mirrors the Moon King in almost every aspect, but instead of disapproving of his daughter’s love, he disapproved of his son’s. That’s why when I was sitting next to my parents watching Kubo and the Two Strings play out, I couldn’t help but let the tears fall from the corners of my eyes.
This was a story that resonated with me so closely.
For those who haven’t seen Kubo, this essay might need more context. The story follows young Kubo as he takes care of his mother. One day, he stays out past dark and accidentally summons his mother’s dark past. It’s an epic adventure that centers on Kubo’s family, loss and the art of storytelling. For me, the film not only reached me on a cultural level, but also had me drawing comparisons between Kubo’s family and my own.
In this case, my parent’s story mirrors that of Kubo’s parents. My grandfather disapproved of a biracial marriage much like the Moon King disapproved of an “infinite being” loving a mortal human. However, as soon as my grandfather saw his first grandchild, he immediately fell in love. All of his racial bias fell wayside when he met my mom, who turned out to be the one who took care of him when he started to lose his mind.
Other people may interpret the 3rd act of Kubo and the Two Strings differently. On the 105th episode of the podcast, it was clear that Andrew, Lydia, and Zach each took something different from the ending, which is completely fine. I always enjoy movies that give each person an interpretation of their own.
My interpretation drew from my relationship with my grandfather who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's about 4 years ago. Towards the end of his life, his memory became non-existent. Everyone always told me that I looked like my late grandma when she was younger. I never really thought much of it until my grandfather starting calling me Doris and spoke to me like he would her. He gave me grocery money for the kids, he told me how beautiful I was, and he didn’t understand who the other people in the house were (my dad, mom, and brother).
I had this memory in my head when Kubo’s grandfather becomes human and loses all memory of what he once was. The village people reassured him that he was a kind human being. “You taught my kids how to swim,” says one village woman. “Kubo is your grandson,” they tell him.
He looks surprised and confused.
The two expressions that remained on my grandfather’s face until the day he died. He didn’t remember being a sheriff’s deputy. He didn’t remember his grandchildren, but each day his family was there to remind him of what a good man he was and how he had helped so many people.
I’ll always remember my grandfather. I’ll always remember the stories he told. That’s the message that stayed with me the most after the credits for Kubo rolled and I looked over at my mom and dad. They were smiling and I wondered if they saw themselves in the story too. That’s how powerful film can be. It can help you understand aspects of your life that you never really understood before. I got all of these feelings from a stop-motion movie that lasted 1 hour and 42 minutes. It’s such an incredible feeling knowing that a movie reflects your experiences and I think my grandfather would’ve enjoyed it too.