As perceptive critics have noted (as opposed to those, such as Los Angeles Times critic Kenneth Turan, who dismissed this film), The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, very loosely based on a story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, is a love tale, a fable of love moving in opposite directions. The hero, Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt), is born as a man of eighty -years old, who falls in love with a young girl named Daisy (Cate Blanchett), who, as she grows to a young teenager and, later, a young woman, continues to reenter and leave Benjamin’s life until the moment when they are both nearly the same age and for a few precious years have a intense relationship, themselves bearing a child.
Fortunately, this film is saved by another, more subtle theme, which I believe gives it an epic weight that justifies its length. While Benjamin moves solidly through the film backwards in time, the other characters moving forward are forced in their encounters with him to rethink their lives and face up to their failures in the past. This results in a kind of “turning back,” a decision to change the errors of their past, and in that sense, leads for a kind of redeeming of life for each of them.
Despite her anger over Benjamin’s decision to leave her and their daughter, she gradually recognizes that it has been for the better, and as he descends into boyhood and, ultimately, infancy, she takes over the role of his mother, nursing him back into the metaphorical womb.
In short, each of the major figures, faced with a being moving in the opposite direction of the flow of life, are encouraged to reexamine their own forward rush into death. The result is redemption far deeper than the easy lessons on the surface of Fincher’s interesting but deeply flawed film.