Restoration in Hugo, plus a comparison of Hugo and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close as Quests for Fathers


Hugo automaton


Hugo is a story about healing and restoration and rediscovering wonder. Rich visual detail, especially in the clock tower, create a setting that is surreal and wonderful. The setting gave the story a sort of fairy tale quality. 

In a place where time passes and trains move people along on their journeys,  Hugo, Georges and Gustav, the Station Inspector, are stuck. They’ve all experienced disappointment and hurt and can’t seem to move on from it. 

Hugo has lost his father and is on a quest to finish fixing the automaton that the two of them began restoring together. All he has left to connect him to his father is the automaton and his father’s notebook. Hugo keeps going because of his love for his father and his father’s love for him. It is his quest that connects him to the other characters in the story, but it is love that drives the quest. 

Nobody is a villain in this tale. Georges and Gustav play the role as the tale unfolds, but eventually we know their back stories and understand their issues. Like Hugo and Isabelle, they are dealing with loss. Their encounters with Hugo eventually result in healing and restoration for both of them. Even though Isabelle is dealing well with her status as an orphan joining Hugo in his quest impacts her as well. She needs more in her life. Love breaks down the barriers in all their lives and invites them back into wonder.

I couldn’t help comparing Hugo and Oskar of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close: 

  • Hugo is French and Oskar loves France
  • Both lose their fathers and embark on quests to complete something their fathers began with them
  • Both are convinced that there is a message from their fathers at the end of the quest
  • Both are seeking meaningful legacies from their fathers
  • Both are trying to solve a mystery 
  • Both enlist helpers in their quests 
  • Both form friendships with older, broken men that lead to restoration
  • Both quests lead to connection with random people who are touched by their love and determination
  • The mystery behind both quests winds up being part of someone else’s story rather than their fathers’
  • Hugo and Oskar are both very self-reliant and independent
  • Hugo and Oskar both are eventually able to transfer the trust and dependence they had with their fathers to another paternal figure

In a society where more and more children grow up fatherless, in a society where the odds are against boys who grow up without fathers, two Oscar-nominated stories in one year about boys searching for meaningful connection to their fathers seems significant. Perhaps both these tales can serve as reminders that all around us are children who need fathers and legacies, and meaningful quests and love. And sometimes we are those children.

No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you. Jn. 14:18

Comments are closed.