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I just watched Revolutionary Road (2008, dir. Sam Mendes). The credits haven't even finished rolling yet - I just had to respond to it immediately.
I hadn't realised what this film was really about before I watched it as I hadn't read any reviews or read the book on which it was based (written by Richard Yates, 1961) but I'd known from the moment it was released in the movies I wanted to see it, somehow I knew it was my kind of film. And I wasn't wrong. It was fantastically acted, the storyline was superb and the characterisation was amazing. I like real characters like Frank and April, those who make mistakes and have serious flaws. The kind of people you believe in.
But I'm not writing this as a review although if my word means anything: see it if you haven't or better yet read the book. Also, stop reading here as the following contains spoilers.
I'm writing this because I somehow identify in a strange way with April. To be in a rut so deep you can barely see out of is a horrifying fate for someone with spirit and dreams. The only thing worse than this fate is to see a ray of hope shining over the top of the rut (more like a trench, to be honest) and grasp hold of it, pin your dreams to it and see it as the means of escape from the boredom and unhappiness stretching out in front of you.... only to have that hope extinguished. To have seen what might have been and been so close to change, the change you so desperately need to survive another day of your life, only to have the door slammed in your face by the one person you thought was on your side.
In April I see something I fear: that the person she loved most in the world had the ability to break her. All because he was too scared to try something different. He entrapped her, denied her the thing she most wanted - escape. He snuffed out her dreams and there was nothing she could do about it - except the most tragic and final solution possible. Frank allowed himself to be defeated by his own fear and in allowing himself to be defeated he inflicted on April a life she couldn't bear to live.
To be so completely and totally trapped within your marriage and your life is a terrifying prospect and one that is no longer as common to many women, thanks to the advent of feminism - at least in the Western world. However, I don't think that this means this story is outdated and neither do I think the message behind it is less imperative than it was when the book was released nearly 50 years ago. I think that the key message is that living a life which is unfulfilled and being surrounded by mediocrity is only one small step away from a sort of death. Accepting mediocrity and accepting not being fulfilled is defeat - the defeat of your spirit. If you have the ability and wherewithal to make a change, the ability to really do something about your life but you fail to do so because of fear or a lack of inner strength to just get on and do it is signalling you've given up. You're out of the game. That's when life ceases to be a life and becomes merely an existence.
Making that change doesn't have to be big. You don't have to move to Paris. You just need to grab life with both hands and give it a shake and see what comes out. So long as whatever that is makes you happy, then you're alive. If you give up on life it seems to me that you may as well be dead - cos you almost certainly are on the inside.