Had a day off from work to celebrate the 4th of July and got the chance to skim Netflix for some movies. On top of the suggestion list was the movie The Adjustment Bureau.
I had watched snippets of this movie here and there, but never got to finish the entire film. I guess 2011 was just not my year for fiction romance.
The Adjustment Bureau is a 2011 American science fiction romantic thriller film written and directed by George Nolfi, based on the 1954 Philip K. Dick short story “Adjustment Team”. It was premiered at the Ziegfeld Theatre on February 14, 2011, and received positive reviews from critics, who praised Damon’s performance and his chemistry with Blunt. It grossed $127 million against a production budget of $50 million, according to Wikipedia.
To make a practice of watching movies, I have managed to get three lessons from the movie.
Lesson 1, You are your choices
For those who had not gotten the chance to watch the film, I will attempt to make a quick synopsis, but my feeble attempt at this may not necessarily give justice to the beauty of the movie.
The story begins with maverick congressman David Norris (Matt Damon), losing his senatorial bid over a scandal that spread over the news. Graciously accepting defeat, he goes to the men’s room to rehearse his final speech only to accidentally bump into a curious woman who later get introduced to as Elise (Emily Blunt).
That accidental meet eventually turns their lives upside down as forces outside of the human realm attempt to separate them.
In more cases than we care to admit in our lives our decisions are made out of convenience. Sure, some of us still go through the logical process of thinking before you leap, but seldom do we apply this process to the little things we decide on.
What are we going to wear? Where to eat? How do we react to situations? How do we feel about things? How do we conduct ourselves? What do we put on social media?
In the movie, you see, Thompson (Terrence Stamp), one of the experienced officers of the Adjustment Bureau, have a word with David. He starts talking about how we really are making our choices, that we think we have free will, but in reality we only have the illusion of freewill.
To some extent, Thompson has a point. The film maybe fiction, but how many decisions in life have we really made with serious consideration to how it impacts the world at large? Just how many instances did we go with the bandwagon and decided because it is what is normal, accepted and common choice?
It can be scary when we soon realize that many of the decisions, we make are not entirely out freedom to choose, but rather programming from social media, conditioning from parents, acceptance from our clicks and status from the society. More often than we care to admit our choices are really swayed not by our freewill, but a desire. Oftentimes, too, this process of decision making had proven faulty at best.
How many times did we chose to purchase things more than we can afford to fit for an event, or buy a gadget whose functions we never really get to use, because it was popular or how many elections did we vote for a candidate who we may not entirely like, but just seemed to be the best option over someone who does not share the same religious or popular views, or simply he/she was likeable?
If we have done the same in the past, maybe we can learn from David as he started making choices and not follow those that has been made for him.
Lesson 2, We Write Our Story
Just this week, the office had wellness and development sessions. This week was about the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
Habit 1, Be Proactive, which points to being a product of our decisions and not our circumstances resonated with this movie.
In many scenes, we see the hatted agents, angels, if we are to really equate them to popular reference, view a notebook that somehow looks like a tracking mechanism that allows them to see if the plan is unfolding or deviating. Then we see David fighting so hard to go against it.
Sure he failed three times and nearly lost the opportunity to be with Elise, but when it mattered the most, he was willing to risk everything to write his own story and not live the one that was made for him.
Are you living your own story or living that of which was made for you? Are you letting people tell you otherwise when you share to them your dreams and aspirations? Do you succumb to peer pressure or ridicule in the process of learning something new?
This may not necessarily apply to all, but how many of us lived behind the shadows of our parents as kids. Did we also let go of something to be the man our parents wanted us to be?
I remember a friend once, who quit the things he wanted to do the most, because his parents wanted him to be a preacher. He would tell me how a part of him is enjoying it, while some parts of him are dying to. He was faced with a tough choice.
To live the life they wanted for him or to live the life he wanted for himself.
You will be happy to know he chose to live a life that he wanted. Did he have regrets, we will never know, but the next lesson I learned from the movie may help us.
Lesson 3, We Make Choices, We Accept The Consequences
Perhaps, the most somber of the scenes in the film was when Thompson was talking to David about what the plan holds for his future.
Thompson was presenting David the outcomes of his decisions, the consequences of his choices. If he were to let go of loving Elise, he would have a sure seat at the Presidency. Now, honestly, that is not something that is offered to you everyday.
Should he choose to go otherwise, he was bound to lead a normal life. Like a true salesman, not even hearing David’s choice just yet, Thompson takes David to Elise’ performance and emotionally blackmails the poor man.
David’s choice to stay with Elise, according to Thompson, will rob her of her potential to be a world-famous ballerina to end up teaching ballet for sixth graders.
There is nothing wrong with teaching kid’s ballet, but honestly, it was an extremely precarious situation deciding the outcome of someone’s future for them.
The next scenes show David deciding to leave Elise so she could be what the Plan held out for her, only to find out that whatever it was that he wanted so badly before, seemed mundane to him—that there was nothing he could think of, but Elise.
With help from Harry (Anthonie Mackie), a peculiar agent who from the beginning of David’s discovery of the bureau offered assistance, David makes a daring move to defy the Plan and be with Elise.
Fastforward, David gets Elise and in a final act of love and defiance againts the odds they go to the centre of the bureau to talk to “The Chairman” (perceivably God), to ask for whatever was the Plan for the both of them to be changed.
I am not here to tell you how it ends, you should watch the movie for that, but if there is anything we learn from final scenes, it would be that—not until we realize that freewill is a gift that we have to fight for, will we truly appreciate it.
That we may choose to be careless in our choices, but we will never escape its consequences. So if all our choices, carefully chosen or not bear some consequences that we all have to pay, might as well give them more thought and decide wisely.