Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Little Red Wagon : a movie about Zach Bonner

In 2004 young Zach Bonner ( age 8 in the movie, but I believe the actual Zach was even younger) sees a news report of the devastation of Hurricane Charlie in a neighboring Florida town and decides he wants to help.  Encouraged by his mother, Zach and his teenage sister solicit donations of bottled water and other essentials throughout his neighborhood.  Zach uses his own red wagon to pick up the donations; then he loads them into the family van and they take them to the distribution center.  After returning several times, Zach is noticed by the press, and his efforts make the nightly news.

Once touched by the philanthropy "bug," Zach continues to want to help others.  Soon he has decided he wants to help the homeless, and he comes up with the idea to create backpacks of toiletries, snacks, and other personal items including a toy to be distributed at area shelters.  He solicits donations from companies and stores and soon is directed to start a nonprofit as his desires to help grow larger and larger.

This quiet movie packs a big impact.  First, there is a real Zach Bonner and in his short life, he has exhibited a selfless passion for philanthropy that few except the rich and powerful ever consider.  It is great that a movie has been made about his choices; hopefully, it will inspire the rest of us.  Like most movie versions, this one is "inspired by a true story" meaning something has been altered or added on. In this movie, there is tension between Zach's mom and his teenage sister.  Whether this was true really doesn't matter to me.  The part that I am sure was "fictionalized" is the parallel story of another single mother, Margaret Craig, who with her young son, find themselves homeless when she loses her job.  Frances O'Connor plays the role of the homeless mother powerfully -- a silent desperation that multiples with each blow that the pair faces. ( O'Connor played the wife on the PBS series Mr. Selfridge last year, another role that she played with understated power.)  Having this homeless scenario unfolding at the same time Zach is trying to raise awareness about homeless children adds strength to the movie.  For one, you can easily see how the Bonner family themselves could easily be in the same circumstances as the Craigs.  That realization should make all of us consider our own blessings.

I felt this movie was well cast and is a little gem that should be shared at family movie night, church youth groups, library movie times, and such.  When I finished watching this movie, I watched all the special feature clips which included press coverage of the real Zach Bonner's walks to help the homeless.  Much good has come from the tender heart of a little boy who has been encouraged and nurtured to follow his dreams.

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