(This is my script for Pause For Thought on BBC Radio 2 on The Early Breakfast Show with Owain Wyn Evans. The theme was That's What Friends Are For...)
This week’s theme had me immediately smiling to myself that I could obsess about my favourite film The Shawshank Redemption. Highly recommend it, if you haven’t seen it.
In the movie, A rather out of place Andy (played by Tim Robbins) arrives into Shawshank prison and quickly experiences its brutality. He is befriended by Red. I have such a soft spot for Red. Maybe it’s because in Stephen King’s original novel Red was Irish. Maybe Liam Neeson wasn’t available and so instead of my north Antrim accent we get an African American played so well by my other favourite actor, Morgan Freeman.
Red is a friend to all, always bringing empathy and lots of wisdom. When the prisoners are getting over their friend Brooks’s suicide, having just been released after decades in jail. Red sits them all down in the exercise yard and in almost a clergyman’s tone says, “'At first you hate these walls, then you accept them and eventually you become dependent on them”. Oh my. A Pause for Thought in itself!
As the movie continues there is a shift. Andy becomes the friend. They are working hard on the prison roof and he tells a guard he can fix his taxes. That gets all his mates a cold beer, while Andy sits, without the beer, smiling.
Another time he sends the sound of opera all across the prison to ease the prisoners dull lives with little blasts of musical beauty. These are glimpses of grace in an oppressive brutal world. Andy is the friend who gives and sometimes, as with the opera, at his own cost.
After the opera incident Andy gets a harsh dose of solitary confinement. After he comes out Red tries to dampen any enthusiasm the prisoners have of hope. A dangerous thing he calls it. Andy disagrees and says “Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies”.
Then the emotional ending. Finally given parole, Red follows his friend Andy’s instructions to a wall under the tree and a box with the money for a ticket to Mexico.
Tears run down my cheeks as I watch the last scene. The panoramic view of the ocean. Sharpest blue sky and ocean contrasting with 3 hours of the grey dark world of Shawshank. Red is on the sand walking towards Andy working on a boat. Free. Redeemed. It’s a little glimpse of heaven.
Giving us hope. That’s what friends are for.