It’s always refreshing when a film has the ability to nudge us towards retrospection. Garden State aims to do just that.
We’ve all heard it before: life hurts. When you diverge away from what’s safe and certain, you run the risk of getting hurt. Scratch that, you will get hurt. No one knows this better than Garden State’s main protagonist, Andrew. We meet Andrew living in a symbolically white room, void of emotion; neutral and lifeless. Nothing. Even in death, Andrew remains unfazed, protecting himself from the pain life causes. Through a turn of events, he meets a girl, Samantha, who begins to add some color to his life. She forces ‘originality’ on him, calling it a “completely unique moment in life.”
Garden State inhabits multiple themes about a man leaving home and coming back, about approval from parents, achievement versus laziness, re-finding yourself and renewal of self, freedom, funerals, death, and rebirth. None of these themes, however, is more evident than putting yourself out there – being spontaneous, unusual, exciting, new, and full of life in the face of lifelessness. This film illustrates the beauty of life unplanned and how anyone can find spontaneity, leaving you with the urge to steal life whenever and wherever you can.
There will come a moment when you either grab life as it passes, or let it pass because it is too painful.
In one particularly poignant scene Andrew, who feels guilty about his mother’s death, finally talks to his dad, after avoiding him the entire film. The scene displays genuine and authentic grace between a grieving father and a burdened son. Garden State shows us that as we confront the pain in our life that we carry with us, we find resolution in action. Life is too short to be wasted on fear of getting burned; fire is in the job description. It will happen whether you are numb to it or not.
Life hurts, but the question is…Is it worth the pain?