All Is Lost, the new J. C. Chandor film, starring Robert Redford, is the story of an unnamed man, journeying alone on a small private yacht through the Indian Ocean. The film starts with the seafarer narrating a parting message, a message that is quite personal, yet too general for it to be meaningful for us, the audience. The plot then takes us back eight days, to an earlier point in the journey, when the boat accidentally collides with a wayward shipping container, floating half sunken in the ocean. For the following eight days the Redford character is struck by one disaster after another, where bit by bit he loses all that he has, save for his hope for being rescued. The tale serves as a close examination of the human spirit, with Redford delivering a subtle yet powerful performance. But this blog entry is not a film critique – you are invited to read my review of All Is Lost on my RonenRecommends.com web site. This blog entry is about life’s lessons.
Chandor and Redford manage to craft a film that is at once both personal and yet devoid of specific biography. In doing so, they enable each person in the audience to find subject matters they can relate to, thus presenting us with a mirror.
For me, this film is all about adapting in the face of life’s trials. It is also about prioritizing and about the thin line that separates hope and despair.
Earlier in the film we see the character’s reaction when water flood parts of the boat, damaging some of his property; items such as a laptop computer and some books. Later, when the man is forced to abandon ship to save his own life, none of that matters; his priorities radically change. As the challenges continue to amass, so do the choices that need to be made with respect to what to keep and what to lose. Redford acts the part to perfection, subtly presenting those moments when reality sinks in and comprehension takes over, requiring him to adapt yet again. Survival is a very powerful force and its fuel, more than anything else, must be hope.
The story, though foreign to most of us, who are unlikely to find ourselves taking such a voyage at sea, is a well-devised metaphor. Ultimately, regardless of family and friends, we journey through life alone. Our possessions are only temporary and our attachment to them, futile. In that sense, the film can also be viewed as a prayer. Without disclosing the ending, think of the final shot as Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling painting of The Creation of Adam (God’s extended hand). In my mind it is meant to say that only when the hero truly gives up everything he has, including hope, there is salvation; hope for rebirth. This is a concept I have a hard time with but I much appreciate the chance to reflect on it.
All Is Lost is a powerful tale and one I recommend.
p.s. One thing for sure – All Is Lost does take the romanticism out of lone sea journey…
Learned from: All Is Lost by J. C. Chandor with Robert Redford