The same man who recommended this book and movie to me told me yesterday that the movie advances slowly. My watching of it confirmed his warning but didn’t destroy the experience. In a way, it almost fit the nature of the film better than I expected. The film documents an adventurous college graduate, Christopher, who runs away from an abusive, materialistic life ruled by his high-society parents to live alone in the wild.
From the limited knowledge I have of cinematography, I was impressed by camera angles, stop and go scene edits, spit screens, and brilliant shots of the wilderness. Even the choice of scenes to encapsulate a fast forward, such as the depiction of three weeks in the wild by showing a fire, a shower in the river, and eating a rodent were especially clever and unique.
The sequencing of the film, however, was all over the place. The timelines were chaotic, the settings were woven haphazardly with past and present monologues by more than one character. More than anything, the mis-sequencing of his life distorted some of the very themes I think the story means to convey, those of relationship and family, choice and circumstance, and truth. The distortion of these themes bothered me the most.
The meat of the film comes in two places that I see. One is in the contrast between the relationships Christopher (who names himself Alexander) forges on his was to this idealistic Alaskan adventure, the hippie couple in the trailer, the old man Ron in the desert and his time alone in Alaska, trying to survive and taking journal notes. The other is the foundation of the run-away, the abusive home life that unfolds for the viewer as we watch him get further from home and hear his precious sister narrate his absence. Both plot lines are well developed and engaging throughout.
I’m left feeling completely devastated in the wake of Christopher’s story. He died from physical exhaustion and malnutrition. But what breaks my heart is that he spent his last adventure, the only thing he’d ever wanted to do, slipping into the truest of mental and emotional depression. He said to the man who wanted to be his grandpa, “You’re wrong if you think the joy of life comes from human relationships” probably months before his Alaskan death, yet the movie made it seem like one of the very last things he wrote was, “Happiness only real when shared.”
The story is one I hope you read, see, or hear in some fashion. The movie in this particular variety, I could take or leave: Two Thumbs