127 Hours and gruelling ordeals

Half fearing another effort like Sunshine, I sat down in front of Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours, my second cinema film of a powerfully uninspiring wet January afternoon. Where Sunshine failed to grip and entertain through limited setting, 127 Hours achieved much more.  Creatively shot, it also vividly painted the mental landscape of the main / practically only real-life character Aron Ralston: a buccaneering twenty-something played by James Franco who falls whilst canyoneering and gets his arm stuck under a rock, before finally cutting his arm off to free himself.  It’s not too much of a spoiler to say as much, given it’s a true story and has been well trailed.  There are warnings of gore – which I didn’t think was all that bad  – at the ticket sales and leading into the theatre.

Boyle frames the Ralston’s story with images of “Life”: humanity, civilisation, energy, friends and family.  It’s a gruelling watch but one which makes you feel distinctly better, and possibly more grateful for life afterwards.

Forgive my slinking into morbid introspection.

The film unavoidably summoned my own not too distant memories of nearly drowning little over a month ago.  Terrifying ignorance of the very near future: not knowing if it could be death.  Clearly I demonstrated nothing close to the stamina, mental strength and sheer guts of Ralston.  I just swam.  But there were parallels.

I was reminded of the sense that there are other factors at play; everything is up for grabs now, I can only do as much as I can and it might not be enough, how this ends isn’t all down to me.  Like you’re already giving yourself up to whatever comes next.  Fear and shock convinces you of this, even though it’s a fallacy.  Every decision you make has taken you to that point.  While other factors may have influence, it is mainly down to you how, or if, you get out of that point.  There may be other factors but it’s mainly you.

It’s unlikely anyone could answer Ralston’s ‘can you do it?’ question without being in the situation.  Presumably you’d very directly have to equate hopefully adrenalin diluted-pain with certain death and hope the force of your mental strength is enough.  But you can’t know.

Another point of identification was that Ralston told nobody where he was going, so couldn’t be reported missing for a long time.  I occasionally take these trips, albeit not quite as adventurous as Ralston, so found it heartening to see a reasonably well adjusted character who enjoys exploring remote places with only his own music for company, given this exposure.  Granted, I only meant to go for a short drive, walk along a beach and take a few snaps that Sunday afternoon in early December.  Not exactly canyoneering.  Nonetheless, you can’t always predict what’s round the corner.  And equally I could have had a remote smash in a car in Wisconsin, or slipped when shimmying amateurishly across a Madeiran mountain rock face in October.  There never feels like a need to tell anyone.

At Christmas when I told my mother about my incident she was all afluster for a good half hour and I wished I hadn’t said anything.  “We might never have never known, or not for a long time,” she said.  That was true enough.  Living and working alone there’s a constant, if usually only faint jeopardy which comes with the liberty of nobody ever missing you – not even work colleagues you don’t like.

That idea connected with what I found to be a sweet first film of the afternoon, Love & Other Drugs.  At the end where the two impossibly beautiful characters played by Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway are predictably reunited, Jake’s character mentions that “everyone does.”  I can’t qualify what he was responding to without feeling like an utter tosser, but his character was right enough.

Now stwoke my forlorn lickle head.  Or kick me in the face.

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