In 1994, the romantic comedy-drama Forrest Gump was released. Based on the 1986 novel, the tale follows the titular character and his life, as he witnesses and influences some of the most significant events of the second half of the 20th century. 'Forrest Gump' is one of the first films to incorporate a fictional character into the history of 'our world', so to speak, which seems to be a significantly difficult task. Yet, the film manages to pull this off well, with Forrest seamlessly slipping into history. His significant interactions with notable individuals demonstrate his role as a representation of America, creating a heart-warming tale of not only the ageing of a man, but of a country.
Strangers at a bus stop take up the perspective of the audience, throughout the story. Forrest, who in the present of the movie, is waiting for a bus, begins to address these various strangers with his life story, starting at the very beginning. The first famous historical figure we run into is none other than The King, Elvis Presley. A young Forrest, due to leg braces, has a slightly altered walk, which the future musician uses to create his famous dance move. Next Forrest witnesses the historic admission of African American students into the University of Alabama, whilst his incredible performance on the football field allows him selection for the college football All-America team. This ends up in his meeting of President Kennedy, who asks him 'How're you feeling today, young man?” coupled with a handshake. To which Forrest comically responds "... I gotta pee." This occasional insert of Forrest into American history acts a reminder that each and every one of us has an impact on history, no matter how small.
A significant part of Forrest's character is his low IQ. It is widely interpreted that he has a mental disability, though some argue that he is just underdeveloped. Nevertheless, this part of his character allows Forrest to constantly understand the world in the most innocent way, even as he grows up. This not only adds to the romanticism of the movie, but also contrasts nicely with some of the harrowing events explored in the film (The Vietnam War, The Black Panther Group). One thing is slightly ghosted over, however: the Civil Rights movement in America certainly is highlighted, but there is no mention of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr's Marches and speech. It is true that due to copyright law, no extract from the speech can be used in film or TV, but there are many ways the man, and his work, could have been referenced. Despite this, the movie still offers a clever and endearing take on American History.
'Forrest Gump' is certainly one of Tom Hank's best films, as he perfectly captures the simultaneous innocence and experience of both the protagonist, and America. A Sunday night movie, it is both a romanticised and witty story, and one which is very deserving of the high status it holds in the world of film.