There is a certain magic to movies. It’s a magic that nothing but video can quite capture. It doesn’t work as well in a book, a podcast, nor can it be fully found in a picture, but a movie always, and without fail, performs this magic. The magic? It’s in the details. It’s the scenes that without any (or at least very little) dialogue still communicate so many, many, details.
When a book wants to tell you something the writer must have to describe it all, each and every word. Because of this, sometimes the details will get lost in the shuffle as the author moves on to the action. If an author tried to fit in all the description that one could find in a film’s set, their book would be labeled as boring. Filmmakers, on the other hand, have the unique ability to slap down a musical track in the background and deliver a few short sequences that say much more than words ever could.
In the beginning of this film, Juno begins by describing her family. One of the members that she mentions is her mother and the Valentine’s Day cacti-grams. Although she talks about hating the cacti, we notice that she has kept all of them. The camera deliberately pans to show Juno’s windowsill filled with presumably eleven potted cacti. Without saying so, and despite Juno’s flippant tone, this simple clip shows us that Juno misses her mother and wishes she had never left.
About an hour into the movie, there is a scene in which Bren is adjusting Juno’s pants so that she can wear them during the later stages of her pregnancy. This scene is more than just the surface details. At the beginning of the movie, Juno and Bren have a complicated and generally confrontational relationship. They have nothing in common, and do not understand each other. Juno is disrespectful to Bren’s property, and Bren spends her time obsessing over dogs.
Once Juno becomes pregnant, however, we begin to see their relationship improve. Bren’s comment about Juno being a little Viking carries an undertone of the respect that she carries for Juno’s decision. After this, their relationship gradually improves. The first real scene that we see of Juno and Bren repairing their relationship is at Juno’s ultra-sound. Now, taking the time to sew new waistbands on all of Juno’s pants shows how Bren cares about Juno and represents their newly repaired relationship. The only other time that we see Bren sewing she is working on a needle point of a dog and at another point she’s working on a dog collage. The fact that she has put away dog activities, which she obviously enjoys, to take care of Juno furthers the message. Her small smile at the end of that clip shows how proud she is of the work. Perhaps she is also picturing Juno‘s thanks, or just Juno getting use of them.
After Juno has her baby, there is a very close and touching scene between Juno and her father. This ends as we hear Bleeker’s sneakers running down the hallway to Juno. Her father gets up, walks to Bleeker, and places his hands on his shoulders. This action has great deal of meaning. The action is closing to the “episode” of Juno’s pregnancy. It is also Mr. Macguff’s way of telling Bleeker that it is alright if he dates Juno. He approves of her choice despite the fact that Bleeker was related to Juno’s pregnancy.
Similarly, the last scene of the movie presents many more messages. The first thing we notice is that Bren finally owns a dog. Then Juno smiles at her step mom as she leaves the house. Evidently their relationship has not deteriorated to pre-pregnancy status. She sits on the lawn surrounded by all the new flowers with her puppy. Juno had her baby during spring, a season associated with new life and that – combined with all of the new life in this scene alludes to the new life that all of the characters now live.
In that sequence we also see a very happy Vanessa with the new baby and notice that Bren has ditched her typical turtlenecks for an aqua colored t-shirt. Typically turtlenecks are associated with old or stuck up people. It’s as if the dog has given her a new lease on life, just as Juno’s baby has given Vanessa one. Bren wanted a puppy just as badly as Vanessa wanted to be a mother. In that respect the women are quite similar.
There are other important messages in this scene as well. Juno and Bleeker are playing music together which brings the viewer back to when Bleeker mentioned getting the band back together. A new lease on life for the band as well.
Then, see the track team runs by for the last time, but this time Bleeker is not with them. He has finally stopped running and is beginning to grow. Finally, the scene slowly moves from a close up into a wide shot forming a “book-end” with the opening scene of the film that begins in a wide shot which moves into a close-up.
Movies work their magic through other details as well. The viewer can gather details about a character from their clothing. Mark, for example, is constantly wearing hoodies, graphic t-shirts, and jeans. He seems to be dressing as a college student, rather than as a grown man of his own age. This signifies his failure to completely grow up. Vanessa generally wears professional clothing signifying her acceptance of responsibility and professionalism. Her use of her old band shirts as paint shirts signifies how she has moved on from the life she lead when she first meet Mark, and contrasts with Mark’s failure to do so. Juno wears offbeat type clothing that does not fit what anyone else is wearing. This matches her individuality and unique personality traits.
Motion pictures come with the distinct ability to subtly include many important details that must be left out of books, audio stories or still photographs. It is these details that can make the watching of motion pictures so intriguing and enjoyable. The magic of the details is central to a motion picture and the hunt for meaning – priceless.