Movie Review: ‘Revolutionary Road’

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While there are some movies that show the obvious, apparent simplicity of human emotions, there are some that dig deep beneath the surface. Revolutionary Road (2008) is a film that talks about various layers of different kind of relationships, chiefly between a husband and his wife. Leonardo Di Caprio (Frank Wheeler), Kate Winslet (April) and Kathy Bates (Helen Givings) come together once again after their journey in Clint Eastwood’s Titanic. Their journey here is no less tumultuous than in the ship Titanic, and the only difference is that the ‘iceberg’ here shows more than once!

To their neighbours, Milly Campbell (Kathryn Hahn) and her husband Shep (David Harbour), the Wheelers are a perfect couple. But as we know, whenever something appears shining and complete from outside, it is more than flawed. The perfection was definitely an illusion- the Wheelers had extramarital physical relations and bitter quarrels due to the disillusionment of their respective careers. On Frank’s thirtieth birthday, April has a Utopic idea that she feels will make them happy- that they move from Connecticut to settle in Paris. Frank had once told her that Paris was the place he had always liked. Though April had never been to Paris, she just felt things would be blissful once they moved there. But that the pursuit of happiness can be quite challenging, she did not understand at that point in time, when she was eclipsed by the cloud of the hope of happiness. April forgets that destiny is not our slave, and whenever man proposes, God disposes. Future had some other plans for the Wheelers. Though their neighbours and Frank’s colleagues felt that the idea of suddenly shifting to Paris was immature and impractical, the Wheelers continually floated in their romantic idea.

The only person who supported and encouraged their idea was John, son of Helen and Howard. John was insane and introduces into the film a very serious concept: the line that divides sanity from insanity. When April and Frank get into a huge confrontation, and April asks Frank who is insane, he answers someone who is not able to give love or receive love from others; he indicates someone who is emotionally void. This makes April laugh hysterically because she considers Frank to be fitting into that definition of ‘insane’. Though both Frank and April profess they love each other, one wonders what kind of love it is, because it is full of doubt, deception and dissatisfaction. But the Wheeler couple are optimistic for a better tomorrow because of their Paris plan, that is destroyed by the sudden discovery that April is pregnant with their third child and Frank is offered a very lucrative position at his job. The lure for more money, instead of no job in Paris and the fear that April might abort the child, forces Frank to change his mind. This decision is very practical. However, it does not go down well with April. She loses her peace of mind, because of being thrown back into the same drudgery and ‘emptiness of life’.

What happens thereafter leads to the tragic end of the story. The decision not to go to Paris brings the improved relationship between Frank and April, back to square one. The ultimate tragedy of April aborting her child by herself, which eventually leads to unending blood loss and her death is a tragedy that reminds us of the Captain of the ship Titanic, who kills himself because he can’t save others in it. April kills her child perhaps because she is not able to save her relationship with Frank.  At this point, one wonders if things would have turned out different had the couple moved to Paris. But with the change in place, do relationships change? That is the pivotal question here.

Both Leonardo Dicaprio and Kate Winslet give powerful, natural and compelling performances. And Michael Shannon is phenomenal as the insane mathematician John. No wonder the movie was nominated for, as well as won many accolades. A definite watch to fathom an aspect of the complexity of human relationships!