Towards the end of Million Dollar Baby the character Scraps, ex boxing great turned gym porter, says of a character who has been away from the gym for a while, “And then a ghost walked in. " This is an inadvertant commentary on almost all the principal characters in the film, and thier relationships to each other.
Scraps (Morgan Freeman) is a ghost for Frankie (Clint Eastwood), as is Maggie (Hillary Swank) - the former because he lost sight in one eye in a match, many years ago, partly due to Frankie, and the latter because as time goes on she becomes a surrogate for his long gone daughter who refuses to reconcile with him (we are not told exactly what went wrong between Frankie and his daughter, though we see that he has a shoebox full of letters he sent her marked RETURN TO SENDER).
Frankie goes to Mass every day; the priest tells him, “Write to your daughter. " Scraps and Maggie bond because both have been trained by Frankie. Scraps and Maggie, without knowing it, become mirrors of each other, each having been gravely hurt in boxing matches with Frankie as their manager. Yet, at the same time, they mirror each other in another way - boxing is their whole life (Maggie tells Frankie at one point, “If I don't have this, I have nothing"; Scraps literally lives in the gym, in a small space in a corner with a curtain.
He never leaves the place (Frankie invites him to come to Vegas for a fight and he says, “Do you know what this place would look like if I left it?") Everyone whom Frankie seems to care about in his life has been gravely hurt by him - his daughter, Maggie, and Scraps. The gym is a place of vicousness and street consciousness - a bully beats an annoying punk to a bloody pulp, only to be knocked out cold in turn by Scraps. Frankie and Maggie are both on horrible terms with their immediate families, and Scraps has no family in sight;it is such a nonissue for him that none is ever even mentioned.
In this world, in these lives, the characters share much that is bleak and dismal, yet the end effect of the film on the viewer is one of hope, respect, and dignity nonetheless. Any time one character turns to another, their souls, their cores, relate - and in this way these relationships reveal to us some of the essential truths about humanity.
Peter Quinones is the author of Amethyst Secrets, published by I Universe. His website is http://www.cultureboutique.com