If you look in my car right now, you’ll find a sweatshirt, scarf, heavy gloves, two filled water bottles, flashlight, first-aid kit, road atlas, trail mix and those things that you can break and shake to keep your hands warm. I live by the old scout motto: Be Prepared. The closest theater showing 127 Hours is about an hour’s drive away. There is currently 27 inches of snow predicted over the next two days, so I took the drive today. Sometimes, no matter how prepared you think you are, circumstances can change in an instant and you find yourself faced with moments that can make or break all that you have become.
Directed by Danny Boyle, 127 Hours is based off the real life story of Aron Ralston, a lone mountain climber who didn’t tell anyone where he was going, got his arm caught under a boulder in an isolated canyon and survived by cutting it off with a pocket knife. If I just spoiled the end for you, I apologize, but you must have been living under a rock. Pun completely intended.
James Franco portrays Aron as an energetic and charismatic lone wolf. He packs for his weekend trip while listening to a voicemail his mom left, but never calls her back. The only human contact we see him have in the present is with two young ladies lost in the park. Coming off a little strong and creepy at first (I mean, two girls approached by one guy covering his face with a bandanna, sunglasses and a hat in the middle of nowhere, we’re taught to be cautious), Aron shows them an adrenaline junky’s dream entrance to a beautiful canyon swimming hole. They invite him to a party, complete with a giant inflatable Scooby-Doo, and part ways.
While stuck in the canyon, Aron wonders if these two girls will be the last two people he will ever meet. He has plenty of time to think about his mortality, his lack of rations and devise a few unsuccessful plans for escape. With his handheld video camera, he keeps a log, explaining the situation, his location and asking authorities to give the footage to his parents as a recorded goodbye. As his hours wear on, Aron’s mental state is just as much in jeopardy as his physical.
It’s the little things that really help Aron carry on. Seeing a familiar raven fly over him every morning and feeling that fifteen minutes of beautiful sunshine is rejuvenating to his body and spirit. But most of all, it is the desire to live, be with loved ones and be part of that human connection more than he ever has before that drove him to make the painful choice for survival.
In that theater, with two other strangers, each alone, I cried, I chewed my hand to keep from screaming and at one point, feared I would vomit. It was amazing. I know there are plenty out there who scoff and complain that it took forever to get to the amputation and then it was over too quick. The film is not about losing an arm. Or gore, or meeting hot chicks in a canyon. It’s about the will to survive and the importance of human connection. We all have our favorite people, it’s important to stay in touch with them. In the end, we’re all part of humanity, all here together and live to be connected.
When the credits started rolling, my two lone movie companions exited with no acknowledgement of another presence. I casually dabbed my eyes with my sleeve, pulled my grocery list from my pocket and wrote the most important thing to do later: Call Lucas – wish him good luck for tomorrow.
On the drive home, the roads blissfully spotless and my mind full of the most important grocery list items, I had forgotten about one stretch of road that hadn’t seen salt or plow in days. Going northbound, you see it coming in plenty of time to slow down, but southbound, you pop over a hill and it’s right there. At fifty-five miles per hour. I felt my eyes widen, my hands grip the wheel. There was oncoming traffic to my left and to my right were flashing lights. Police next to a flipped, crumpled car. Any sudden movements could easily wind me, and possibly others, with a similar fate. As the flashing lights whipped past my windows, I coasted and I took a breath, “Don’t lose it.” I could feel the slick underneath my tires, but my car stayed miraculously straight. It was only a simple close call, nowhere near the heroics of Ralston, but life is life. It’s all we have. And tonight, it has never felt so good to get those most important items crossed off my grocery list.
“Mom, I love you. I wish I’d returned all of your calls, ever.”
If The Academy chooses a an uplifting film about the amazing strength of the human spirit, 127 Hours will win the Oscar for Best Picture.