Let me be frank with you, Roy Walker’s life pretty much stinks.
While in a 1920’s Los Angeles, Walker (Lee Pace, The Hobbit’s very own Thranduil) is left to sit endlessly in a hospital thanks to a film stunt that left him pretty much crippled. He is surrounded by a host of lonely and quirky (if not crabby) tenants who share the mutual frustration. This boredom is rocked by the sudden coming of a young girl, Alexandria (Catinca Untaru). In the process of meeting this young girl, it is clear she has a vast love for the adventurous world around her. Her imagination springs forth in a 2 part film that is connected when Roy tells her “epic” stories.
While many might brush this simple story as just another unusual friendship film, which it is, it has so much more to it in this creative indie, dramatic character study, adventure epic of a film (Man, it’s hard to pinpoint a genre to put this under). This film looks at the tough questions of grief, loss, friendship, drug and substance abuse, and yes, suicide. This film appears to be a fun and cute family adventure, but its rough content and themes are not suitable for the youngsters by any means (which is why it has an R rating for “some violent content”). What is clear about this film is that director Tarsem Singh is giving undertones of the beauty that life has for each and every one of us.
The first area of beauty is in the beauty of the earth. Singh took 5 years out of his life to film this movie, and all along paying for it out of pocket. Taking with him many relatively unknown actors and traveling the globe to tape the most beautiful artifacts that mother earth has to offer. All I could think about while watching the fantastic cinematography (which Singh used almost no CGI in the film to show its natural beauty) was Romans 1:19ff that tells us God’s very own existence is evident through His creation (though one of the characters is Charles Darwin, but evolution is only hinted at).
The second area is pertaining to the beauty in the adventure of it all. It can be in the simplicity of little Alexandria’s love for the small things in life, making the most of her little life while being a guest at the hospital. It can be seen in the great vast amount of cultures that are likewise explored in this film (Note: some of which are many images of men in little amounts of clothing, picture National Geographic photos in the Amazon and such. Also one scene of a woman whose dress shows a lot more skin than it should, but it only lasts about 3 minutes or so). All of this is a great way to show the beauty that life has for us in what we can witness. All we must do is look around us and explore the marvels it has in store.
The third is in the people around us. For Roy, this isn’t an easy thing. He has been taken advantage of by many, including the love of his life (who left him for his rival). As well as those incredibly annoying folks who also share his hospital room. He wants to just end it all and be done with it. Yet, it is the love and affection of one young girl who looks up to him (even though he is just using her). Young Catinca Untaru gives one of the best child performances I have ever witnessed. It is no lie she is adorable, but she also acts like a natural on screen. Pace’s and her chemistry is some of the most touching and natural I have ever seen. And it is through this beauty we see that life is worth living because of the smallest of people.
I decided to do this review because this film is criminally underrated. Critics seemed to glaze over it as being too confusing, and I have personally never met anyone who knew what it was. It should be noted that I watched it with Clearplay which cut out a handful of profanities (including 2 G-D**ns) that made it easier to view. What this film offers though is a unique viewing experience you would not get anywhere else. It can’t be viewed as your typical adventure film or comedy; it requires your attention and concentration. But if you do, you just might be able to see the beauty that is there. Like I said, it is a hard and painful film to watch at times because of the handful of disturbing, yet essential moments. These show the pain the characters go through. The hardship and difficult decisions they make. Yet, it goes to show all the beauty that life has to offer, even when it is difficult to endure.