Great Scenes of the Prequel Trilogy: Anakin Leaves Shmi

I wasn’t really sure which TPM scene I was going to write about today until it was brought up in the Ask SWPAS section.

When Anakin wins his freedom in the pod race, he gets to leave Tatooine with Qui-Gon for a new life as a Jedi. But he must leave his mother, the only family he’s known, behind. Being nine at the time, he’s not really psychologically ready to be separated from his mother and making matters worse, he’s too young and not informed enough about what the Jedi life entails to fully comprehend the implication of what he’s about to do.

Shmi Skywalker might not be a mean shot with a blaster or mistress of a lethal lightsaber but what she does here is incredibly brave and utterly selfless. Anakin is all she has and she must realize that giving him over to the Jedi means, in spite of what she tells Anakin, she will probably never see or hear from him again. But she does it because it means a life other than slavery and poverty on a crummy backwater planet. It means a life where Anakin can really fulfill the potential she knows he possesses, in a way that’s honorable and befits his own selflessness.

You know it’s a momentous scene because of the dramatic way it’s played out, complete with the Force Theme swelling in the background. It’s a scene that is one of the most important in the entire prequel trilogy because not only it marks the beginning of Anakin’s journey to the Dark Side, it’s the root cause of his fall. Separation from Shmi becomes a unacknowledged wound that never heals and Anakin, who still needs an anchor and someone to love, will continue to look for that the rest of his life with disastrous results. He loses Shmi to a violent, undignified death soon after finding her again, causing him to cling even more to the other woman in his life, Padme. His need for a parental figure brings him to Palpatine, who promises to save Padme with the power of the Dark Side. Obi-Wan is completely unable to understand or help him. If TPM was a book and this was English class, your teacher would tell you this is a “highlighter moment.”

The scene is shot with Shmi at one end of the screen and Qui-Gon at the other, with Anakin having to walk across a great gulf between them. His inability to fully let go and “not look back” as Shmi warns him is shown when he stops and runs back to his mother. Then he reluctantly walks away from her and of course, looks back.

Personally I think this was Jake’s best scene and Pernilla August kills it. Liam Neeson didn’t say anything but his compassion for Anakin shows. One must wonder how things would’ve turned out had Qui-Gon not been killed by Darth Maul.

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6 Responses to “Great Scenes of the Prequel Trilogy: Anakin Leaves Shmi”

  1. ladylavinia1932 Says:

    This scene between Anakin and Shmi was not only one of the best in the Prequel Trilogy, but one of the best in the entire saga. I cry every time I watch this scene. Anyone who claims that Lucas cannot direct actors should watch this scene.

  2. peacetrainjedi Says:

    “What does your heart tell you?”

    This scene melts like butter; it’s truly beautiful. John Williams outdoes himself.

  3. lovelucas Says:

    This is a scene to sass back at those who think Jake Lloyd wasn’t good as Anakin. It’s a beautiful scene, perfectly played out by all 3 characters. Qui Gon has to be practical and shut down any emotion he might feel. Shmi is putting on that brave front, knowing she can not show Anakin how devastated she’s feeling, how much she is aching, knowing he’s leaving her and probably forever – but she does the noble thing and tells him this is his future and not to look back. Jake is just wonderful here. He’s torn because he wants to experience freedom from slavery, to fly away with every star to be visited but he cannot leave his mother behind – and this is a key thing – Can the Jedi acknowledge, after the tragedy of Anakin, that they’ve been wrong – that it is wrong to take a child from his parent/s, that their gospel of letting go of everything you fear to lose is a recipe for disaster because that fear of loss is demanding that the children they are taking give up their humanity and the possibility of love being in their lives. Yoda – how did you miss this?

  4. lgghanem Says:

    Yes! I was waiting for you to get to this scene. It really had its biggest impact on me when I was watching the 3D re-release in 2012, and I realized I had goosebumps all over my body and tears in my eyes, just thanks to the sheer impact of that moment, especially as delivered by John Williams. Not just the impact of what was transpiring onscreen, but the impact of future events that this scene will cause. All of that emotion and all of that power of what is happening and what is yet to happen hit me with such force, and it was perfectly encapsulated in those few seconds, as Anakin walked away, accompanied by a powerful swell of the Force theme.

  5. madmediaman Says:

    There’s a real somberness to this scene. It’s pretty clear from Pernilla August’s performance that Shmi believes she well never see Anakin again. There’s a look of utter contempt on her face for the life she will have to endure and the life her son is leaving when she says, “Don’t look back.”

    It really is a final warning to her son that there’s nothing good to be found on this miserable planet… never come back. She is totally sacrificing her desire to keep her son with her so that he can live out his dreams… It’s a lesson of self sacrifice Anakin tragically misses.

  6. Jim Raynor Says:

    Every time someone claims that the prequels are a soulless CGI fest made only for money, with no regard for personal storytelling, I think of this scene. I’ve seen more than one person say that they were touched by it. I’m one of them.

    When I saw TPM 3D in 2012, I had a hard time getting into the movie. I had seen the whole thing many times before, and the crowd (which was full of families with excited young children) was very noisy. However, even with all of those distractions, I still really felt something when this scene came around.

    I watched the rest of the movie, waiting to see what the final reaction would be. At the end, all of the parents and kids cheered and clapped in applause. Even I was surprised. I had only personally seen such a reaction in the theater for three other movies: Return of the King, The Dark Knight, and The Avengers.

    Clearly, something connected with all of those people!

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