The axis mundi of “Secondhand Lions,” starring Robert Duvall, Michael Caine and Haley Joel Osment, is that the kid is desperate to learn what he needs in order to become a good man. He’s never heard truth from his mother. He’s never had a good man in his life. How can he figure out what’s true? How can he learn what he needs? How can he overcome his self-doubt? To what should he devote himself? Whose side should he take? Finally, one night, he pleads and forces Robert Duvall to give THE SPEECH – “What boys need to know in order to become good men (and girls to become good women).”
The Kid: “I don’t know what’s true. I don’t know what to believe.”
Robert Duvall: “Sometimes the things that may or may not be true are the things a man needs to believe in the most: That people are basically good; that honor, courage and virtue mean everything; that power and money, money and power mean nothing; that good always triumphs over evil – and I want you to remember this – that love, true love never dies. You remember that boy, remember that. Doesn’t matter whether it’s true or not, you see, a man should believe in those things because those are the things worth believing in. Got that?”
I love that speech. It’s not about what’s true; it’s about deciding what ideas will be your pole star; it’s about deciding what you will devote yourself to in the creation of your future. And these are values that are worthwhile devoting yourself to.
If you devote yourself to those values you can live gloriously every day. If you turn your back on the good; on honor, courage and virtue; on true love, your life will be empty, you will have no chance.
A theme in “The Last Samurai” is living nobly, living with honor – no matter the consequences. That’s why, at the end, when the young Emperor asks Tom Cruise to tell him how the Samurai died, Cruise answers. “I will tell you how he lived.” That’s the example the Emperor needs.
Choose whether to live a selfish, shabby, sordid story or a great and worthy story. Be the hero of your life.