2002 was a year of despair and desperation at the movies. Danger, oppression, and grief came from all directions. Sure, there were the usual invaders from outer space. But this year, self-absorption, doubt, paralyzing grief, and long-repressed anger proved much more difficult enemies.

In many movies, sudden and violent deaths deeply wounded those close to the deceased. The parents and fiancé of a murdered woman fumbled for hope and healing in Moonlight Mile. In Signs, a reverend turned against God after the death of his wife. In Love Liza, a widower numbed himself to the pain of his wife's suicide. A girl named Morvern Callar coped with her boyfriend's suicide by partying hard and taking expensive vacations. A gangster took his son out on a vengeful crusade against the man who killed his family in Road to Perdition.

Several characters suffered grief, loneliness, and fear as consequences of their own behavior. One man (Time Out) seemed unaware of his sin, and continued telling lies to friends and family, running into deeper and deeper distress. Another (Minority Report) helped design a presumptuous and chancy crime-fighting system, only to find himself trapped in his own designs. Others (About a Boy, About Schmidt, Adaptation) discovered they had wasted opportunities, and scrambled to assemble a meaningful life or make some kind of connection before it was too late. In Songs from the Second Floor, an entire city of vain, cruel, and self-destructive people plunged themselves into suicidal despair, ignoring the image of Christ, which they had turned into a commodity. Only a few characters (Catch Me If You Can, Insomnia) found grace on the other end of living in denial.

Young men grappled with years of repressed anger, coming to ...

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