Men, Women & Children

Men, Women & Children ★★★★½

Hi Letterboxd, Bitter Eli here. Normal Eli has taken some time off and allowed me to spawn from an abyss of displeasure and frustration at the Letterboxd community's reaction to Jason Reitman's most recent (and greatest) directorial achievement. Before we begin, I'll provide you with a textual recreation of how I came into being:

*begins to scroll through the Letterboxd reviews of Men, Women and Children* ugh... aw, really? must be a fluke... nope, here's another... wow, and another, and another *frowns* *frowns again* *continues to frown* *frown becomes permanent* oh, no... ugh, damn... *checks to make sure that he's reading reviews of the right film* wow, this sucks... this really sucks *something ticks* no. no. no. *vision starts to blur* no. no. NO. *gets a nose bleed* NO. NO. NO. NOOO. NOOOOOO. STOP IT I CAN'T TAKE IT ANY MORE *tries to close tab but becomes possessed by something dark and unfamiliar* WHAT IS HAPPENING. DEMONS AND LEECHES. ALL I CAN SEE ARE DEMONS AND LEECHES MY VISION IS CLOUDING WITH BLACK HOLES AND ENTITIES WHY ARE MY EYES BLEEDING I CAN'T FEEL MY SOUL I CAN'T FEEL MY SOoOoOoUL I THINK MY INTESTINES ARE CHOKING ME AM I BEING SWALLOWED BY MY OWN SHADOW!?!?!? MY MIND IS GOING DAVE MY MIND IS GOING I'M MELTING I'M MEEEEEELLLTTTIIINNNGGGGGG

And the result, my dear friends, is Bitter Eli. For a visual demonstration of something resembling what I look like, see:

Now that we've gotten all of that out of the way, I should probably explain to you why I'm so irritated by the negative reception of this film. It would be unfair of me to be annoyed with the mere notion of people disliking a film that I love; that's not what has gotten me all riled up. I'm more angered by the extent of the negative reception - the abundance of spiteful reviews and the degree of their hostility toward the film, which I think is a very important work.

Men, Women and Children is a film that deals with the very difficult subject matter of how important constant communication and social interaction has become to we humans, specifically Americans, since September 11th, 2001, when our security as a country was threatened and had the potential of becoming derailed. Cell phones became the norm and social interaction became an incessant thing because fear of losing those close to us started to plague our minds. As a result, social media saw immense growth, new forms of technology and ways for us to stay in touch with one another flooded the market; eventually, dashboards and news feeds came into existence, ways for us to examine, on a grand and instant scale, the lives of not just those closest to us, but almost anyone.

Human live evolved, or devolved, into a display.

Communication technology and social media lost (some of, but not all of) its original purpose and became a way of life. Many of us no longer read expansive and heavily detailed literary texts such as Tolstoy’s War and Peace (how many people in my generation can say that they have read anything of equivalent density? not many); we now read briefer and more concise passages on the web such as status updates and Tweets. Our brains have shifted. Our minds have re-wired themselves to crave these shorter bits of information. As long as were consuming information, we’re happy, whether the depth of such information is absorbed or not.

We are, indeed, the very product of our technological advances.

This is the world that Men, Women and Children takes place in. Our world. The pale, blue dot. But Men, Women and Children doesn't focus on this particular aspect of humanity. It focuses on many aspects of the present time, aspects created by the rapid-fire, paranoid world of today.

(Slight spoilers for the remainder of the review, but when I say slight, I mean slight. It's nothing that would, in my opinion, negatively affect your viewing experience; if anything, I would hope that it'd enhance it... but proceed at your own risk, I suppose. The rest of my review comes straight from the heart.)

It's concentration lies in interpersonal relationships: the couple slowly distancing themselves from one another as a result of a lack of communication, feeling trapped in what they see as the confines of marriage, using the web to receive from others what they need from one another. The mother deeply frightened for her daughter's safety in a world that seems so much larger than it did when she was her child's age. The next mother, unaware that she is quite literally exhibiting her own kid, unaware of the vastness of the web and the potential consequences of her actions... how this exhibition might shape her daughter into a shallower version of the girl that she raised. The boy who utilizes the internet as a form of escape from abandonment, his wounds becoming more and more infected each day that he refuses to face his problems, each day that he buries himself in a screen, rather than looking to those he has left, who still love him.

I've heard complaints, that Men, Women and Children doesn't take place in reality, that it doesn't know the truth of the new age, that it's a delusional portrayal of a technologically driven world. I couldn't disagree more, and I can't help believing that people may feel threatened and reel back from portrayals of existence that may hit too close to home. It is, of course, an exaggerated form of reality, but it is nonetheless a very fine portrait of a time called the present.

The final moments of the film, I found to be particularly touching: a satellite carrying off into oblivion arbitrary markings, meaningless words and sounds, a hopeless desire for a race to be known. There's no sense thinking about the past or the future, how many people have existed and will come to exist, and how small that makes you. It's more important to remember that your time on this earth is limited, and rather than looking at that fact cynically, harness it as a means of recycling kindness. You and the people you love are your past, present and future. Everything else is just noise.

Bitter Eli, signing out, and feeling much less bitter (and much more appreciative) than he did when he began writing this review.

Oh, the beauty of catharsis.

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