How do you even begin to explain what life means to you? How can you explain the depths of why we are all here, and how did we get here? Why are we here? What are we meant to do with ourselves in this very long life? They say 'live like you're dying', but what if you already are, inside and out? What if you know you're not doing something right but you have no choice, just to prove you exist?
Director Tim Blake Nelson explains this concept of philosophy and existentialism in Anesthesia. The deeply moving and heartbreaking film touches on several different lives. They are all connected in some way when beloved college professor Walter Zarrow (Sam Waterston) gets brutally mugged in New York City. The cast includes Sarah, (Gretchen Mol), a mother who numbs her pain by drinking excessively to avoid her husband having an affair; Sam (Corey Stoll), the suspected husband who is avoiding going home by sleeping with Nicole (Mickey Sumner); a crack addict named Joe (K. Todd Freeman) who is forced to stay in a rehab center by his high-class lawyer best friend (Michael K. Williams); Walter's student Sophie (Kristen Stewart) who is so tired of being lonely and sad, who resorts to self-harming with a curling iron; and two kids (Ben Konigsberg and Hannah Marks) who love to smoke pot. Nelson also stars in the film as the kids' father dealing with his wife's cancer scare. Glenn Close additionally stars as Walter's loving wife.
It was interesting to see how all of the lives are incorporated into each other, even though some of them barely know each other, or don't at all. Each family has its own issues to deal with, and they don't necessarily take on their issues until the last second. Waterston and Stewart's performances stuck out the most in the film.
Each situation made you more sympathetic towards them. Walter's last lecture to his students before his retirement about the meaning of life itself touches all of the lives involved, not just in the classroom. Sophie's monologue about how technology has made her generation numb to the real world made me stop and think of how this has become the norm. We have been programmed to use technology --- phones, laptops, tablets and the like --- to delibrately dumb ourselves down, even in the most prestigous universities in the world. When I saw the burn marks on Sophie's arms and legs, I wanted to rip away the curling iron and tell her it was going to be okay. I wanted to be angry at Sam and Sarah for being selfish and not realizing how their behaviors were affecting their kids. But I couldn't be too upset; both characters were pretty unbearable by themselves. I felt bad for the crack addict in the hospital, but I'd felt even worse for his friend who had to put up with him because no one else would have.
It is hard to even remember how the film ended, because it did not feel like it ever did. The continuous beeps of Walter's hospital pulse monitor kept going on and on, until the credits appeared. That proved that even in times of struggle, life still manages to move on and carry forward. The only thing you can do is take those first few steps and keep going as best as you can.
Have you seen Anesthesia? What are your thoughts on the movie? I'd love to hear your comments below.
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