Albert Camus argued that anyone who chooses life over death is an absurd hero. Absurd because Camus could see no logical reason why anyone would choose the pain and suffering that living even the most blessed of lives entails when ultimately the struggle to stay alive will surely fail. And heroic because, in full knowledge of this truth, and in full knowledge of the burden of pain and loss that staying alive will inevitably entail, a person who chooses life and not death somehow finds the courage to make that choice.
In this film about love, life and living on the edge of sanity, reality and life, the main protagonist would surely be acknowledged by Camus as an archetypal absurd hero. Because if you’re drowning, literally and metaphorically, and if breathing out for one last time seems the least painful choice,choosing to breath in, knowing all too well the pain that will follow, must surely take courage and then some. And isn’t there something absurd about risking loving, no matter how sweet, when the pain of its loss has already proved itself beyond bearing?
In the love story that is the backdrop to this excellent film, the love isn’t so much lost as severed by a shared genetic burden that means, for the couple in question, risking a painful and inevitable early death for any children they might have had. In the few simple words “she wouldn’t consider adoption” we begin to understand the sort of collateral damage that this deceptively simple and routine premarital genetic test can leave in its wake.
One of the most remarkable aspects of this film is the depiction of the love between a mother and her adult son, so eloquently portrayed and in so few words by Joaquin Phoenix as the son and Isabella Rossellini as the mother. This film is well worth making the effort to find it in the various art house cinemas it is doubtless being confined to. Enjoy!