“God knows it can all turn to blood in the blink of an eye.”
I feel completely compelled to write about this, in a word, gem. From the brief synopsis alone, I knew that this was going to be something that I would thoroughly enjoy. Granted, I feed off melancholy, the drab, the depressing. And that’s just what I was expecting from The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman.
The real beauty of this film is that not much happens, but it’s the way in which our lead Charlie (played amazingly by Shia LaBeouf, who I can’t hark enough about) navigates through the complications of his journey by simply using his instincts and emotions. Not much is calculated throughout his adventure, but as Roald Amundsen said:
“Adventure is just bad planning.”
Charlie, in his early/mid 20s, watches his mother die in her hospital bed. Overcome, he runs from the room and encounters the spirit of his mother, and in a tear-inducing exchange, she tells him to go. Anywhere. He says he needs more specificity, and so she tells him: “Bucharest.”
Off our Charlie goes, with the weight of a thousand earths on his shoulders. The blisteringly haunting performance from LaBeouf is enough to make me think he’s got far too much of a connection with Charlie than may be healthy. For instance, the well-documented account of LaBeouf tripping on acid for the high-as-hell scenes. Fair enough.
I don’t want this to be a summary of The Necessary Death, and in knowing so little about it is what helped me love this film so much. So that’s all you really need to know; burned by the loss of his mother, a young, idyllic and simply gorgeous soul goes off wandering – not to find himself, but find something. And so, as “fate” would have it, he does. A woman of hard resolve and too, filled with grief (the highly talented Evan Rachel Wood of another one of my favourite films The Life Before Her Eyes, who, once again, stars in a thought-provoking film about the importance and simplicity of deciding your life’s fate. Sacrifice. Death.) the two strike up an inexplicable bond.
“You can have anything in life if you will sacrifice everything else for it.” ― J.M. Barrie
I have to make a note on the capturing of Charlie’s youth, which is juxtaposed with his self-sacrificial, often prophetic displays of love. Aside from a physical death, you can expect the necessary death of aspects in and of yourself. As Louise Erdrich puts it,
“You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.”
- Gorgeous soundtrack, laden with music that can’t decide if it’s going with the atmosphere or creating it. Running through the streets with violins sweetly strumming in the back can work wonders with a bit of dubstep thrown in.
- Shia LaBeouf and Evan Rachel Wood, who, I believe are two of the best young actors of our time.
- Shia LaBeouf’s eyes. Might they be the most expressive on the silver screen?
- Unless I missed something (unlikely, as I was completely engrossed by this gorgeous little film), the characters seem to run into one another rather serendipitously.
Having said that, I do believe the whole film is a fantastical exploration into the idea of fate and serendipity. With just the right amount of melancholy and sadness that I like (ok, I admit. It could do with a bit more.), The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman is a film to remind you simply of what life is about. And, despite the romance, it manages to stay solid and poignant, without any mush, much like Lost in Translation – another film dealing with the problems of a seemingly simple life. Perhaps that’s the problem we’ve always been facing in our lives – the illusion of simplicity, complacency. That the equation of happiness, love and success is achieved by lining our ducks in a row. But sometimes, it takes a hell of a lot of complications to see how simple things should really be.
“If you’re going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don’t even start. And, you’ll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds. And it will be better than anything else you can imagine…There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It’s the only good fight there is.” ― Charles Bukowski
A personal adventure, a deep feeling of restlessness and the urge to get up, out and away from the comforts and dregs, the kites and anchors of life. Nostalgia for a life you’ve never known, the ability to miss something you’ve never had.
For me, that’s what came about with The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman.