I have a dilemma. This film is one of the best movies I have ever seen. And I do not want to ruin it for those of you who are economically awaiting the DVD release or are awaiting a decent torrent to burn to disc.
So, I will give you some ruminations and glimpses so as to review the film but neither rehash nor reveal it.
911 operator: “…whose the victim?”
Tim Thomas: “I am.”
When we next meet Tim, he is Benjamin Thomas—he seems to us, though we know there’s something deeper, a two-bit restaurant owner who has a knack for turning people’s good intentions into embarrassments.
We can see Mr. Thomas as a crude coach or a fire burning at the rear-end of a bustling business, but it does not quite make sense, and, as the remainder of the film will remind us, we do not really want it to make sense. We will follow along; believe what comes.
Better than the truth. The truth is uncomfortable.
We allow ourselves to believe that Tim Thomas is Ben Thomas, an IRS agent who is a little too well-intentioned to realistically keep his job, a little too optimistic to be taken seriously, very depressed and alone. No wonder he kills himself, we are thinking.
It is strange to experience this, and queer to have come to the end of a film and be certain that we knew the whole story scarcely before the story began. The audience is paralyzed with empathy, forced to observe the truth.
This time we did not proudly sigh half-way through the film and sarcastically say, “I didn’t see that coming at all,” and resign into a slouch.
From the very beginning, we were erect and attentive. There was an unspoken and undeniable beauty in way the film left things out, wasn’t straight about some things, was vague as well as blunt and abrasive about others.
Nightmares, long stares in the mirror, falling in love, death. Like the Sistine Ceiling all puzzled apart.
Nothing came in normal succession other than, let’s say, home being where we start from, in succession houses rising and falling.
Precisely because the movie is simple, but not simplistic; it was like watching a flower bloom then abruptly dying. We know it will die. We just do not want to miss it flower.
People do not like depth, so far as preferences go. They just know they are supposed to appreciate it. This film has the audience from the very beginning, hoping and praying, crying and fuming, but always too scared, right until the end, to admit what is coming.
The principles promulgated are principles which everyone wants to espouse but can’t—because we’re neither professional actors nor screenwriters and we are, for the most part, selfish.
Too selfish to be like Ezra Turner, “a blind beef salesman who doesn’t eat meat,” as Benjamin puts it (played by Woody Harrelson), who comes to us first of the seven “pounds.”
Where one would utilize the phrase, “blind leading the blind” in order to satire a way of doing things, I think Ezra is meant to model those who are not “fools [going] aimlessly hither and thither.”
After an onslaught of deliberate pulls and punches, “have you ever had sex, Ezra?” comes from Tim like a stinging prick on the skin. Then the camera goes to Ezra. Then it’s like a lance being driven into you.
Ezra has nothing. It simply doesn’t make sense to him to retaliate. We feel bad, but we do not instigate. You suddenly are Marcus Aurelius and fall silent with Ezra.
That is what this movie does. It brings you out into the cold war of life and then takes you away from the comfort of certainty into a dense wood, shows you the beauty there between the cold bare branches and intermittent chirps and rustlings.
You do not want to do anything but watch your breathe rise and invisibly fall. You realize you are one person, but that you are a person.
“Say what you want to say!,” Benjamin shouts at the end of the phone-call, Ezra slowly resigning from the conversation.
No camera angle or shot of tears dripping down onto a camera positioned upon Harrelson’s lap. No frowning or nodding of the head. Just sadness without expression—the deepest. We’ve all felt that before.
We have all felt alone like Ezra in the diner toward the middle of the film. Some of us have felt what it feels like to be dying or to have almost died, like Emily Posa, to be abused like Connie Tepos and her children.
Very few of us know what it feels like to sacrifice ourselves, not for principles but for those principle in our lives, or who we deem deserving of being such. We watch this movie because, to be honest, we want to be Tim Thomas.
This is a good time to be reminded of the sheer volume of good one person is capable of—and, most importantly, what it takes.