Sunday, September 25, 2011

More Time Travel

I've mentioned before that I'm fascinated by books and movies about time travel and alternate universes, and why not?  Look back at your own life.  Isn't there at least one decision that, had you chosen differently, would have sent your life in an entirely different direction?  My own life has at least four pivotal points that could have turned me into someone else.  I'm not inventive enough to imagine the entire cascade of events that could result from taking a different path, but I enjoy reading or watching the products of those who are.

Perhaps my favorite "what if" movie is Sliding Doors with Gwyneth Paltrow.  Paltrow plays Helen Quilley, a worker bee at a London PR firm who is fired at the beginning of the film.  She returns to the Underground station to take the train back home.  At that point the movie splits in two and shows us what happens if she does and doesn't catch that particular train.  In one version she slips on board at the last possible second; in the other, the sliding doors close in her face.  After that the two versions of her life are entirely different - or are they?

Even in the scenes where she is supposed to be depressed and downtrodden, Gwyneth Paltrow is luminous, and the writers did an amazing job of showing us the two alternate realities while keeping us clear on which one we are viewing at a given time.  The end of the film is probably the reason the movie doesn't get better ratings from most reviewers; one of the timelines has an unhappy ending, and the other is hopeful but ambiguous.  Of course, hopeful but ambiguous is probably the usual outcome in real life, too.

"There are two sides to every story. Helen is about to live both of them the same time." ~tagline for Sliding Doors

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