New Year’s Eve—Movie Review

Review by Stacey Tuttle

New Year’s Eve is a montage of intertwining lives, connected stories that are like pieces of a puzzle, which eventually come together to make one image.    It’s like one of those photo collages—the kind that is made up of a million different pictures, small faces that are hard to distinguish unless you look carefully, but taken as a whole they make up a definite image.  They collectively tell a story.  Kind of like this picture. 

 Except it’s a movie.

So what’s the overall image, the overall point of New Year’s Eve?  It has to do with the dawning of something new.  It’s New Year’s Eve.  It’s a time to reflect on the past, but also a time to move ahead to the future.  It’s less about the actual New Year’s resolutions we all make, and more about being positioned to be ready to make changes in life.  Resolutions are useless if you aren’t ready to break from the past, ready for change.  This is a movie about what it takes to get there, to that place of readiness.

Claire becomes the voice of change for the movie.  She gets to speak to all of NYC, all of the world really, about the meaning of New Year’s.  She gets two critical speeches (OK – she definitely gets the first speech.  The second is narrated, and I thought it was her, but it could have been someone else—to be fair.)  She gets her first speech when the notable New York Ball gets stuck as it ascends before the midnight drop.  She is suddenly in the spotlight, trying to ease everyone’s fears about the ball.  In a stroke of genius, she uses it as a metaphor and an opportunity to bring some depth of meaning to the celebrations.  She says the ball’s pause is to remind us that we would all pause at the New Year to reflect on the past before we embark on the future.  She explains what New Year’s, to her, is all about.  She mentions how it’s a chance to reflect on the past, on “triumphs and missteps, promises made and broken.” 

She doesn’t stop there, however.  She goes on to say that it’s not just about the past; it’s about how we respond to the past.  Do we “open ourselves up to new adventures or close ourselves down?  New Years’ is about a chance to do better.”  It’s a clean slate, but only if we let it be.  The movie is full of people who are seriously tempted not to, people who are afraid to open themselves back up, who don’t want to be hurt again.  The truth is, it is often easier to be right than to be healed…and it’s often what we prefer.   

Although the various vignettes each feature a range of reasons why someone might not want to forgive or risk loving again, or just risk living the life they really want to live—whatever that might entail (fulfilling a bucket-list even), each of the characters finds a way.  They forgive; they risk; they love.  

I said that Claire (I think) gets two speeches.  The second one comes at the conclusion of the film.  It’s almost like a concluding paragraph to the movie.  “It’s OK to listen to your heart.  I know it’s risky.  Go ahead and take that leap.  There are so many things you can’t control:  earthquakes, war, famine.  It’s important to remember the things we can control, things like love and forgiveness.  … Love in every one of its forms.  Loves gives us hope.  Hope for the New.”

Love and forgiveness—it all comes down to those two inextricably intertwined things.  Didn’t Jesus sum up the whole of the law and the prophets with a similar idea?  He called it the great commandment:  Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.  He said the second commandment was similar, to love your neighbor as yourself.[1]

I know that as the New Year approaches it’s easy to make a list of resolutions – things we want to do.  But I think the movie makes a good point, that maybe we need to deal with the things that hold us back.  Why is it that we haven’t accomplished past resolutions? 

Ingrid (Michelle Pfeiffer) has been making a list for years, but hasn’t accomplished a single item on it.  Why is that?  Are you like that?  For Ingrid, she finally came to a tipping point at her job.  Once she quit her job, she had nothing else to lose, so she finally began.  She’s kind of the movie’s cautionary tale. She tells Paul (Zac Efron), (and really all of us) not to wait like she did.  

So here is what I wonder, what is it that you want to do differently next year?  Is it relational?  Is it risky?  I’m not talking about how you want to lose 5 pounds, but then again, maybe I am.  Maybe your weight loss goal has been something on your list year after year and you’ve never accomplished it.  Maybe it’s not about weight loss, but about how you see yourself, about daring to be who you want to be.  Or maybe it’s a relationship you want to repair, like Claire and her father, or Jensen and the girl he walked out on.  Are you like Ingrid?  Have you been hiding behind a job you hate, because you are too scared to venture into something new? 

 I don’t know what it is, but I dare say every one of us is hiding behind something, from something.  Every one of us is bound to have some area in our life in which we would rather be hurt and feel right (justified) about it than risk the vulnerability that it would take to find healing.  It’s easy to keep on making resolutions of things we want to do, but not many of us want to be honest about the things that hold us back.  Honestly, I think we are more comfortable with our wishful thinking than we are with change. 

Claire is right, we do have a chance to open ourselves up to something new, or to close ourselves down.  What is it going to be for you?  The good news is, you aren’t alone.  It is risky, or at least, I know it feels risky.  However, the real reality for those who follow Jesus is that it isn’t risky at all.  He will empower you to do anything He calls you to do.  

I know that at New Year’s everyone likes to think about what they want to be different in their lives.  Have you ever asked God to tell you what He wants to do differently in your life though?  He will empower you to do what He wants you to do.  That doesn’t mean He’ll empower you to do anything that you want to do.  Equally importantly, have you asked Him to reveal to you the things that hold you back?  It’s kind of a scary question, I realize.  The good news is that once he shows you, he will help you to “throw off everything that hinders”.  He will help you to get out of all that “sin that so easily entangles” so that you can “run with perseverance the race marked out for [you].”[2]

May this New Year’s be different.  May you find freedom from all that holds you back and may you embark on new adventures ordained by God himself. 

Questions for Discussion:

  • What are the things you would like to do differently this year?
  • What things might hold you back from accomplishing those things?
  • Is there something on your list of resolutions that repeats itself every year because you haven’t had the courage to do it yet?
  • Which character/vignette did you most relate to?
  • Have you ever asked the Lord what He would like to heal in you?  And/or what resolutions He would like to put on your New Year’s list?
  • Love and forgiveness—how are you doing in those two areas?  Who do you need to forgive?  Who are you withholding love from?  Whose love are you rejecting or unable to receive?

View our collection of New Year’s Eve movie quotes here!

[1] Matthew 22:36-40

[2] Hebrews 12:1-2