I’m talking about Coco!! Spoilers, obviously. If you haven’t seen it, stop reading this and go watch it!
My husband and I just watched Coco (again) at the dollar theater. We’ve watched it three times in the last two weeks. He and I sat and quietly sobbed as the credits rolled. Normal movie-goers had to shuffle around us and our tears to get out of the theater.
I guess Coco gets to me so much because it presses on my heart with unprecedented truth. Here are four truths Coco reaffirmed:
1. The narrative we’ve been told about estranged family members looks different from their perspective.
The only piece of our deceased relatives we really keep is the stories we tell about them. Once they’re gone, they lose control of the way their story is told. We tell their stories from our perspective, and color their personalities the way we remember them.
Coco brilliantly plays on the potential for getting our relatives’ stories wrong.
Ernesto de la Cruz is the famous musician, hero, and supposed great-great-grandfather of Miguel. Miguel puts him on a pedestal solely because of what he learned about him from movies and songs.
Hector Rivera turns out to be Miguel’s real great-great-grandfather. At first glance, Hector is the less impressive man of the two. He’s a bit of a shyster. He steals Frida Kahlo costumes and stuff.
The narrative Miguel was told about his great-great-grandfather was that he abandoned the family to become a musician. He learns the true story in the Land of the Dead.
Ernesto turns out to be the murderer of the real musician, Hector Rivera. Oh, and stole all his songs. Oh, and his guitar.
Once Miguel learns the truth about his grandfather, he embraces him with open arms.
2. People can change, even after they’ve died.
Mama Imelda is the best example of taking on a new perspective in the Land of the Dead. She banned music from her family after her husband left her. The world Miguel knew growing up was that music was absolutely off-limits, with no exceptions.
But later, Miguel learns that his Mama Imelda really loved making music with her husband before he left. She even sings to Miguel. Later, after a crazy turn of events, Mama Imelda ends up singing in front of thousands of people.
Mama Imelda changed.
3. Coco is about families being together forever. Sound familiar?
In the final scene, one year after the Day of the Dead that the movie began, Miguel sings these words:
Our love for each other will live on forever
In every beat of my proud corazón
Christ’s love, manifested through temple ordinances, unites us to our families eternally.
Our families are so much bigger than we are. Since I just got married I feel like I belong to a family of two, but Coco reminds me that’s not true. We have so many people who came before us and who will come after us. They love us and support us.
4. Even estranged families in life can be happy in the afterlife.
In the end, Mama Imelda and Hector reconcile and get back together. I think sometimes we limit ourselves by thinking our relationships with estranged family members will always be estranged. Maybe when we die and gain a new perspective, we’ll be united with even our estranged family.
President Eyring explains our blessing and responsibility to help unite our deceased family members:
Many of your ancestors did not receive (temple) ordinances. But in the providence of God, you did. And God knew that you would feel drawn to your ancestors in love and that you would have the technology necessary to identify them. He also knew that you would live in a time when access to holy temples, where the ordinances can be performed, would be greater than ever in history. And He knew that He could trust you to accomplish this work in behalf of your ancestors.
While Miguel sings that song in the final scene, the audience watches the living and dead relatives unite on Dia de Los Muertos. Deceased Mama Coco puts her arm around her living daughter. Hector and Imelda dance. The whole family mingles and dances and sings.
I love this imagery. It gives me chills because we can each fit into each of those roles. We are each a patriarch or matriarch of a family, like Imelda and Hector. Even if we don’t have children yet. We are all grandchildren, like Miguel. We all fit in different places of the family, and we are needed where we are.
We’re not alone.
We can help our ancestors as they help and guide us, by learning their stories, finding their names, and taking them to the temple.