Then the movie started and from beginning to end, it was absolutely beautiful and heart-wrenching - so much so that still a week and day later I am still thinking about it. The story of Christopher McClandless, or Alexander Supertramp, and his journey over a two-year span, culminating with his tragic and ironic end in Alaska, struck a chord within me.
There is a pain and yearning that Sean Penn and Emile Hirsch capture in this film. It is the pain and betrayal felt by a boy who has been scarred by his family life. There is a yearning for escape, to leave everything that they stood for, and try to discover himself and in the process, find happiness. Throughout his two year journey, Christopher/Alex encounters so many different people and touches many lives with his own. But his own end-goal is to go to Alaska. Alaska becomes his Quixotic windmill, except that he gets there. And he relishes his experience there, until the land starts to betray him - first with the impassable river that comes to life in the spring, and next with the lack of available food. Then his own intellect betrays him as he misreads his plant book and eats a poisonous plant that ultimately leads to his starvation. It is the ultimate irony, that in trying to escape from the pain of his family life, he learns in the end that happiness is shared - happiness comes from relationships, from the people that he met along the road, from being with his family. The place where he seeks escape gives him death instead - a kind of escape that he wasn't looking for.
There is so much more in this film though. For example, there is the whole sequence in which he meets Frank, an old man who lost his wife and son in a car accident while he was away fighting in a war, and since coming back to the States has not left his little town. And in part of that sequence, after Frank has climbed up a mountain after being told that he couldn't, he says to Christopher/Alex that it is only after we forgive that God's love can shine down and through us. Which is so true. I think I also was so touched by this sequence because it in a way reminded me of my Grandpa who I still miss and mourn for.
It has been a long time since I went to a movie and found myself still thinking about it a week later. The two other films that I saw last week (The Hat Trick, as I like to call it :)) don't hold a candle to this one. It is definitely a must see.