“You can be lost anywhere.” This is one of my favourite quotes from “Felicity” a TV show from the late 90s. If you’ve never heard of it you are missing out on an underrated but excellent series that portrays the aftermath of a woman’s (Keri Russell) decision to follow her high-school crush (Scott Speedman) across country to attend university. Describing the premise this way does not give credit to how the writers slowly draw out and build her character throughout the seasons. You learn that she didn’t follow a boy, she was trying to escape her overbearing parents and stifled life. Again, “you can be lost anywhere.” It’s so true isn’t it? It is sometimes so tempting to bolt and let go of problems, schedules and monotony. Journeys are great and they can help build parts of yourself, but I don’t think they can be counted on to really take apart your inner conflicts. These types of trips and experiences make cinematic magic and there have been various films (Before Sunrise, Eat, Pray, Love, Stealing Beauty) that address these encounters. I want to discuss two of them now and how they approach these explorations in different ways.
In Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation you are privy to the friendship between two travellers in a Tokyo hotel. Lets put aside the problematic aspects of the portrayal of Japanese people and culture for this discussion. In her subtle and delicate style Coppola gets to the underlying desire, love and attraction between two individuals who are lonely and dissatisfied with their current relationships. They are bonded by their need to connect with someone, anyone, who can draw out why exactly they are staying in such an unfulfilled state. Time seems to pass slowly and the pacing is what really makes this film. You have to be just as patient as the characters themselves who are finally slowing down to enjoy time with someone who can actually see them. But there is a limit and they will return to their lives and never meet again. Bob will reconcile with his wife, career and duties but you have a feeling that Charlotte has built the courage to let go of trying to sew up the holes in her marriage. Yes, they don’t end up together and they never cross the line but that’s probably the most meaningful part. It’s less contrived as a result of their restraint and more meaningful that they were both the catalyst for each other, however brief their relationship. That they woke up.
I believe that Kat Coiro is also trying to achieve this in her work And while we were here where a woman (Kate Bosworth) tries to rescue her quickly failing marriage. There has been a trauma that has caused a huge divide between her and husband but she accompanies him to Italy to try to repair their partnership. When he’s working she sees the sights and tries to complete a book documenting her grandmother’s experiences in the second World War. This is where she meets a younger man who starts to pursue her and although she initially resists she is drawn into his lust for life, which in my opinion can only exist at a certain age and specific context. They begin an affair and she decides to leave her husband, not for the young man per say, but for herself. Now this is where I start to ask questions and all of the cliches start to grate on me. She leaves her accomplished, beautiful, classical violinist husband for a “boy” (I use this word for a reason) in shorts, tank tops who’s about go to Tibet for a “spiritual” journey? Yes her husband was emotionally distant but is that a deal-breaker? I don’t necessarily think it was him per say, their marriage just had had too many disasters and there was no more room to heal. Maybe it would have been more believable if the actor portraying the young man wasn’t so incredibly annoying. Jesus Christ, I know you are so excited to explore the world but calm down. The real stars of the movie are Capri and Kate Bosworth’s understated performance and wardrobe.
What I drew from both these films just reiterates that quote though, that your laundry list of issues will follow you anywhere. But it can be much easier to heal and gather yourself when you are away from the people and places that will just remind you of the past. There’s also more opportunity to meet new people and have more experiences somewhere new. Perhaps it’s not a bad idea to buy that airline ticket, you just have to remember that you also have to work on yourself when you land.