Onward is a story about two elven brothers, Ian and Barley, embarking on a quest to find an artifact that brings their deceased father back for one day. Their father died of a severe illness shortly before Ian was born. On Ian’s 16th birthday, his mother gives the brothers a gift from their deceased father: a magical stall, a rare gem, and a letter describing a “visitation spell”. This spell can resurrect their father for a single day. Ian was able to cast the spell; however, only the lower half of his father’s body was reformed before the gem disintegrated. Ian created a list of things he always wished to do with his father, and the brothers embarked on a journey to acquire another gem and complete the spell because they only have 24 hours to complete the visitation spell.

During the quest, Barley shares with Ian that he was emotionally unable to bring himself to say goodbye to their father when he was dying in the hospital. As Ian is rereading his list of things he always wished to do with his father, he realizes Barley has been a father figure to him throughout his entire life. At the end of the movie, Ian was able to cast the visitation spell and fully reform his father’s body; however, he sends his brother to finally give his proper goodbye to their father. After their father disappears, Barley tells Ian that their father is proud of him, and the brothers share a hug.

This movie shows us the following things:

·        We would do anything to bring our loved one back, and we would want to talk to them one last time. During the movie, Ian plays a cassette of his father’s voice, with which he holds a conversation. What would you say to your loved one if they were alive?

·        This movie shows the process of grief and the feelings that come with grief.

·        The need to know who a parent is as a way to get a road map for yourself, to know who you could be, or can be.

·        How does Ian’s character feel about his dad? What does Ian discover about himself?

                        o   This question can help children and adults think about their own inner strengths and resources that they can use during their time of grief.

·        As Ian grows older, what are some ways that he can keep his dad’s memories alive?

·        What good things happen in the movie? What new opportunities come up following the loss?

·        What did you see in the movie that reminded you of yourself or your life?

Another takeaway from this movie: Talk to that person who has gone above and beyond for you. Live in the present and say it now while you can. 

Author: Chris Seminario, Ryan’s Place Intern

Indiana University, South Bend – Master of Social Work Program