The original West Side Story ranks as the greatest musical film production of all time, and Steven Spielberg’s 2021 version updates the classic production for new generations. Derived from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and created by Arthur Laurents, Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim and Jerome Robbins, the original film captured ten academy awards including Best Picture in 1961.
But what makes it so compelling? The plot conflict is universal, deep and timely: love and sin. It is universal because as human beings we are made to love and be loved. But as fallen human beings, there is a power that often keeps us from loving and being loved: sin. In this case the sinful obstacle that plagues us to this day: racism. The mutual hatred born of sinful pride divides the Puerto Rican and white gangs.
Yet, as they sing Somewhere together, Tony and Maria long for a better way:
Somewhere a place for us.
Peace and quiet and open air wait for us.
Someday there’ll be a time for us:
Time together with time to spare,
Time to learn, time to care.
We’ll find a new way of living,
Will find a way of forgiving.
A time and a place for us.
Hold my hand and we’re halfway there,
Hold my hand and I’ll take you there.
This longing is in every one of us. It is a longing for a better way, not the way of this world, not the way of the first Adam, who fell from his created perfection into corruption. It is the way of the Second Adam, the way of love, the way of forgiveness, the way of God:
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6)