So my son and I saw Logan a couple nights ago, and I mentioned on Twitter that I nearly walked out about ten minutes in. What I didn’t add was that I wanted to walk out and throw up. Neither the urge to walk nor the queasiness happened because the film did anything wrong for me. Instead, it was because the film depicted something so incredibly well, I took the gut punch before I even knew it was coming.
So this is not a review. It’s a reaction. Mild spoilers shall follow in this post, and might show up in comments should folks choose to chime in.
First, a review-ish thing unrelated to the gut punch: The fight scenes are incredible, and not because they’re all fancied up with slow-motion or odd lingering close-ups or flashy weapon manipulation that actual fighters won’t bring to an actual fight. No, my darlings, the fights in Logan are logical and smart. They are swift. They are economical. And those are the two traits a fighter who is experienced—and, frankly, plagued by a lifetime of scars and reduced stamina—will demonstrate in real life. Fighters who survive don’t become flashier as they age. They become efficient.
Now for the gut punch.
Many people have mentioned the aspect of abuse and trauma survivorship. I was hit with something else early in the film.
Spoilers are below the cut for courtesy.
Logan is quite literally limping through life. But he and fellow mutant Caliban have a purpose, and that purpose is taking care of Charles.
Charles is declining, showing all the combativeness of an elderly and intelligent man whose mind is betraying him as surely as his body, and who is aware of that terrifying fact. He hates the need for meds that he both knows are necessary and hates the effects of. He hates the fact he needs them at all, and that hate sometimes snaps at Logan and Caliban because the pills don’t give a damn either way.
But there is more than upsetting senility. Charles is prone to seizures that unleash psychic attacks able to affect everyone in their proximity. And by “affect,” I mean everything from paralyze to kill. The killing has already happened, before the film opens, and Charles knows that, too.
Logan and Caliban endure these attacks, and try to prevent them by hustling for the right drugs to keep them at bay. It’s easy to see how most folks would consider the willingness to face that threat an indication of both bravery and love. It is, but their day-to-day, hour-by-hour willingness to do everything else—right down to lifting him on and off a toilet—is the greater courage and love.
It’s dementia, along with the violence often seen in Alzheimer’s. As someone who has cared for someone in mental decline, and will likely do so again over the coming decade, it ripped at me, and took the pieces I think the filmmakers assumed the audience would see and tilted them just a bit.
I’m pretty sure the film intended to show Logan as a man who needed to learn how to love—how to believe in the power of family—and young Laura was intended to be the vehicle through which he learned.
That fell totally flat for me, so I brushed it aside and watched my own version of the story.
In my version, Logan is not the “usual” self-absorbed aging fighter just waiting for the chance and the excuse to put a bullet in his head, who must thus be taught by a magical young woman how to love and accept family.
Logan is a man who loves fully and deeply the men who share his past and understandings, and particularly loves the man who always expressed love and understanding for him. That love is strong enough to endure senility-fueled nastiness day in and day out, to accept the possibility a murderous seizure could hit in the midst of breakfast, to include all the body care tasks an elderly man in failing physical and mental health will require.
Logan already loves, dammit. He doesn’t keep that bullet around because no one loves him and he loves no one in return. He has that bullet because caregiving is fucking hard, and acknowledging it’s fucking hard can feel like a betrayal of the love. And because Logan knows—as all caregivers of the elderly and terminal know—that the only thing that’ll stop the fucking hard is losing the person you love.
And in the middle of the film comes a set of scenes with a farm family—a sweet and brief retreat intended, I’m sure, to give Logan a chance to reflect on the kind family life he could enjoy if he just stopped being so gruff all the time. I actually thought the scenes a stopover in the land of cruelty, placed there by a misunderstanding of the love involved in caregiving, and the limitations caregiving requires be set on life. Logan isn’t missing out on love. He is loving the way his life is permitting him to love. He is choosing to love.
He is still, exhausted and in pain, carrying the person he loves upstairs to a safe and comfortable bedroom. Without complaint.
And here’s the most heartbreaking thing: The person he loves still doesn’t see the beauty of that love. Charles still wants “normal” for Logan, which is at once an act of love that mistakenly dismisses love. It is the parent who, out of love, “knows” what’s best for the beloved child without actually seeing the child.
When Charles is gone, and Logan is left with young Laura, of course he takes care of her. But he doesn’t do it because he’s suddenly been enlightened on the importance of family and yada-yada. He does it because he is a caregiver, and the easiest thing in the world to do in the midst of grief and crisis is to keep doing what you know how to do.
Truly, the only thing harder than caregiving is to cease caregiving.
But there is indeed a character who learns the worth of family, of depending on someone and being someone others can depend on, of the responsibility of giving a damn.
Logan’s legacy is not that he suddenly realized how to care for other people. It’s that he taught someone else the value of caring.
That’s the movie I saw.
What movie did you see in Logan?