Someone once said that “some people come into our lives and quickly go but some stay for awhile and leave footprints on our hearts. And we are never, ever the same.” In the film Simon Birch, the two central characters, Simon Birch and Joe Wenteworth, have an unusually strong and lasting friendship that affects both of them deeply. This lasting relationship is based on both their common status as outsiders in their town as well as their respect for each other’s different beliefs about faith and life’s overall purpose.
Simon and Joe are both twelve years old and are outsiders. Simon was born small and with a heart defect that prevented him from growing the same size as other children his age. He is half the size of others and twice as outspoken, which is a bad combination. Most people in the town see Simon as a freak and treat him badly. In fact, even the town’s minister tells Joe that “Simon is not a normal person.” Simon’s parents also reject him and do not care where he is or what he does. The only adults that show affection for Simon are Joe’s mother, Rebecca who treats him like he was her son and her new boyfriend Ben.
Joe is also an outsider because he is the son of a single unmarried woman. Rebecca gave birth to Joe at the age of 18 and was not married. In this small town, where everyone knows everyone, this fact is not one that is very acceptable. For her own private reasons, Rebecca keeps the identity of Joe’s father a secret and won’t tell even Joe. It is one of Joe’s biggest wishes to know who his father is but Rebecca tells him that she will tell him when he is older and ready for the truth.
The fact that the two boys both have something about them that makes them different is one of the things that make their friendship so strong. Both of them have been condemned for things that they cannot control – Simon for his size and Joe for the fact that he has no dad. They have each other in a world that does not accept them.
Even though they are so close, there are things that Simon and Joe do not agree on. The boys have very different ideas about faith and destiny. While Simon lives his life with a belief in God and a deeper purpose, Joe does not. He believes that things just are and there is no deeper message. To Joe, life happens and cannot be controlled by God or anyone else.
Simon parents are not churchgoers, but he himself goes to church on his own with Joe’s family every Sunday. He can quote the bible as well as the minister and believes that there is definitely a God. In fact, Simon believes that not only is there a God, but the God has a plan for Simon that will eventually make him a hero. He tells everyone about this and it makes people feel uncomfortable – even Joe who definitely does not believe.
Joe on the other hand goes to church every Sunday with his mother and grandmother but does not believe in God at all. He only has one main goal in life and that is to find out who his father is. He tells Simon that there is as much likelihood that there is a God as there is a Santa Claus. He also does not believe in destiny. He gets mad at Simon when he starts to talk about how he is an “instrument of God” and how he will one day be a hero. Joe’s only main supports in life are his mom and Simon – there are no heroes.
When Joe’s mom gets killed by a foul ball hit by Simon, the lives of both boys change. Both of them lose the only mother they ever knew. Simon believes he caused the death and worries that Joe will no longer want to be his friend, but Joe sees the incident as an accident that neither boy could control. After Rebecca dies, Joe’s need to find his father turns to obsession and he gets into all sorts of trouble trying to uncover the truth which only Rebecca and the father knew. Simon supports Joe through his struggle because he too knows how it is to be an orphan -even though he has parents.
When Simon finds out that Joe’s dad is actually Father Russell, he rushes to Rebecca’s old boyfriend Ben for help. The two go to tell Joe the truth because both had always promised that if they knew they would tell Joe. Meanwhile, Joe discovers the truth on his own while helping Father Russell at a Christmas camp. Joe does not accept Father Russell as his father because Father Russell has always been so mean to Simon. On the way back into town after this emotional event, the bus the children and Father Russell are in swerves to miss a deer and hits a patch of ice. The bus loses control and ends up in a lake.
Father Russell is knocked unconscious and the bus driver takes off. Everything is a mess, but somehow Simon manages to take control of the situation and get everyone out of the bus. He saves all their lives and almost drowns in the process. He becomes a hero after all.
While all the children recover from the accident, Simon does not. He dies in the hospital after the accident. Joe has lost his best friend but he never forgets him. He is later adopted by Ben when his grandmother dies and when he grows up, he names his son Simon.
The movie Simon Birch is about friendship and believing that miracles can happen. The two boys shared a short time together but it didn’t matter because they shared more in that time than most people do in a lifetime. And even though Joe said he didn’t believe in miracles, he believed in the power of his friendship with Simon Birch which actually really was a miracle.