At first glance, Up is an inspiring children’s film about fulfilling dreams. But to an adult, the message has a darker undertone, as the film also discusses death and grief. This film has an incredible balance of implied and overt messages, allowing it to cater to all age groups because the content is more serious for older audiences, as they catch onto both the implied and overt messages.
The first scene I will explore is the first scene of the movie. Carl and Ellie meet in childhood, eventually getting married and getting a home for themselves. After trying for a baby, there is a scene in which Ellie is in the doctor’s office crying, implying she had a miscarriage. To a child watching the film, this may not be very obvious, since it is only implied in the scene. To the adult audience, however, this is fairly easy to understand. This heavier, negative message seemed to be directed at the adult audience, because the scene was very abstract in the way it presented the miscarriage, which would go over children’s heads. This is an implied method of presenting the material, because “nobody spells out the ‘moral of the story’” (Giannetti, 403). In their older age, Ellie grows ill and eventually passes away before Carl could fulfill their dream of moving their home and escaping to paradise falls. However, Carl vows to make it to Paradise Falls. This scene is very straightforward and lets children in on the theme of death. I believe the film presented these two instances of death in an effective way. For adults, they made the film heavier by presenting an implied message, a miscarriage, along with Ellie’s death, an overt message. For children, the film was lighter, as they likely only understood the overt message. This allows the film to be relatable both to the adults and the children in the audience. It caters to the developmental levels of both age groups, and has a message for everyone who watches it, establishing ethos, pathos, and logos. Ethos, because adults see Carl as relatable and credible due to his life experiences; pathos, because of the emotional themes running through the film of death; and logos, because Carl’s decision to keep trying to fulfill Ellie’s dream after her death is something one would expect a spouse to do.
The positive message comes when Carl finally reaches Paradise Falls and the waterfall where he and Ellie planned to move their home. Carl is going through his Adventure Book that he created with Ellie, when he comes across pages Elli had filled out on her own. There were pictures of them getting married, buying a house, celebrating birthdays, and other milestones, along with the message “Thanks for the adventure – now go have a new one! Love, Ellie.” This is the climax of the film, as Carl finally realizes that although he was unable to get Ellie to Paradise Falls before she passed, he provided her with an amazing journey full of adventure and happiness. This is an implied message, because a child may not understand that the pictures in the scrapbook represent Ellie’s adventure. A child sees the overt message, Carl arriving at the falls, as the climax, rather than the realization he has upon reading the scrapbook. This is another example of establishing ethos, because the language and structure of the film “addressed [the audience] neither above nor below their capabilities” (Lunsford, 62). The film uses these overt and implied messages to target different parts of the audience. For children, it provides enough overt messages that they are not being “addressed above their capabilities” with too many implied messages. Older audiences understand more of the implied messages, and therefore see the film as more credible because it provides material that is not “below their capabilities.”
Overall, I feel the messages of death and fulfillment balance nicely, and neither the negative nor the positive message wins out. You walk out of the film feeling satisfied with positivity, but there is still a heavy undertone. I believe the film did an amazing job of balancing overt and implied messages, thus catering to all ages in the audience and establishing ethos, pathos, and logos effectively. I would give this film a 5, because it is universal and carries great messages about following your dreams even in the midst of grief.