Richard Lutz tips his hat to two films on the box this week that take you somewhere else.
Someone deep in the bowels of Film4’s scheduling department must have a travelling bug that needs to be scratched. The British movie channel is rife with films this week that are about wandering, losing your way, getting found and dealing with the travails of a trip that has to be taken. All very philosophic. And very effective too.
We kick off with All is Lost (Thursday, 00.40). Here, 77 year of Robert Redford appears from the pensions office to play the unnamed solo sailor who loses his way somewhere on the roll of the Indian Ocean. You don’t know why is alone, where he is going and, intriguingly, what he’s sailing from. He is the only character in a movie stripped of dialogue and script. This is perfect storyboarding by director JC Chandor (of Margin Call fame).
The beauty of this drenched tale is that Redford’s ancient mariner has to contend not only with the vastness of the seas and its storms but also with his own mistakes. And when his navigation and communications devices get knocked out, he has no contact with anyone. Does he survive? No one is quite sure. And that’s the essence of good storytelling, as Chandor keeps you guessing.
Still on Thursday, Film4 offers up Reese Witherspoon in Wild (21.00). She not only stars but produced this real life tale of Cheryl Strayed (couldn’t make up the name, could you?) who seems to not be journeying somewhere but simply stomping away from a broken past. She hoofs 1,000 miles of the rugged Pacific Crest Trail through deserts, mountains, empty landscapes and, of course, ravishing wilderness as she ponders through graphic flashbacks how she was handed a bad deal in her former life.
Witherspoon’s character not only has to contend with the trail ahead. But like Redford’s flailing sailor, she must deal with mistakes; the wrong gas for her stove, the wrong boots (ouch), the huge overweight backpack. She learns and she confronts her former life. The journey ends with a satisfactory tingle and a tear or two as she realises how much was lost in her wrecked past. But how much was achieved in a mega-trek.
Tellingly, Strayed actually said it was Hollywood sexism that thwarted this 2014 movie from getting an Oscar nomination. In light of recent revelations, her comments have an added resonance.
But these films aren’t the end of the road. That Film4 scheduler in the back office won’t let the travelling concept end.
On Friday, the channel broadcasts two other stories of a journey within and without. At 12.40 there’s the 1944 Hitchcock movie Lifeboat, about a collection of folks on the high seas after a submarine attack. The story comes from John Steinbeck. And at 18.20, Brad Pitt spends Seven Years in Tibet as a mountaineer who settles in with the Dalai Lama in the Himalayas. By the way, as a footnote, The DL lui meme actually played himself in a 1958 film. Now that movie could be interesting. And quite a trip too.