The story revolves round Jesse a lonely farmer boy and Leslie, the new girl at school who befriends Jesse and introduces him to the imaginary world of Terabithia.
Jesse is good at drawing. His practical minded father does not approve of his artistic talents. Jesse is lonely, both at home and at school. Only his little sister May Belle is the one who likes and adores him. It is then that Leslie moves in to the neighborhood and befriends Jesse at school.
Leslie’s parents are both writers and the art is inborn in her. She cooks up stories all the time, be it for her school homework or just an idle walk through the woods. Together, Jesse and Leslie explore the woods and create the imaginary world of Terabithia around it.
Within moments, you are transferred to the children’s fantasy world of Terabithia where they weave stories around the squirrels and the dragonflies of the woods.
Their fantasies are like any other child’s. And that is perhaps what the story is trying to tell us. Somewhere along the way of growing up, we tend to lose that imagination, that talent to write stories. The talent to cook up things. It is this mood that the director is trying to capture. And why should he?
The next thing that happens in the story is that Jesse’s music teacher, Miss Edmonds, who understands Jesse’s talent, decides to take him to the art museum in the city. Understandably, Jesse is awestruck by everything that he sees. It is then that Miss Edmonds tells him - -Perhaps these people also started off in their notebooks. And perhaps Jesse too can one day become a great artist.
So what is the big deal about letting your imagination run and being an artist. The film says it is all about bringing beauty and joy to your life. Terabithia is beautiful, as compared to the mundane greenhouse that Jesse’s father works in. Leslie’s parents who are both writers are much more happy with their little family than Jesse and his family are. But to get all this you have open up your mind. And opening up your mind has its dangers.
Leslie’s parents are not religious and don’t go to church. Leslie goes to church with Jesse and then as they come back, they have a great discussion about religion and the Bible.
So when Jesse comes back from his trip to the art museum, tragedy hits. The children used to go to Terabithia by crossing a creek by swinging over a rope. As Leslie was swinging, the rope gave way and she died by falling into the creek. The movie hits you hard in the face at this point. Suddenly the whole fictive world crumbles and stark reality hits you.
Unable to cope with his loss, Jesse runs back to Terabithia to find a fallen tree lying across the creek. A bridge to Terabithia has been created. He walks over and calls out to Leslie in desperation. But in reply he only hears his sisters voice who is caught over the bridge, unable to cross it. Angry with her on having followed him he pushes her.
But then, the next day Jesse gathers the waste wood planks from Leslie’s home and build a proper bridge to Terabithia. And then he calls his little sister and takes her along, telling her about Terabithia and crowning her the princess.
Terabithia is, in fact, the metaphor for art and imagination in this story. Jesse and Leslie use it to conquer their fear of bullies at school. But this is also the way man conquers his fear of the world and great things are done. If you let your mind be free, Miss Edmonds tells Jesse, you can create entire worlds of your own. Worlds that are beautiful, just like Terabithia.