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Garden State

Zach Braff
Starring: Zach Braff, Peter Sarsgaard...
Length: 103 minutes
Rated: R
Studio: Twentieth Century Fox

This quiet and delightful movie reminds us that if we are feeling numb, that is not a good thing; that if we are stuck in a rut, that is not a good thing; and if we let ourselves be more open, good things can happen.

Andrew Largeman, the main character in this film, flies from L.A., back to his hometown in New Jersey to attend his mother’s funeral. Snippets of his life in L.A. show that he is an actor whose life seems to lack energy – because he seems to lack energy. He has no affect, overtaken by numbness. When his father calls to tell him of his mother’s death, we learn that the father and son have not spoken to each other for a very long time, and we hear the father’s frustration as he leaves messages on Andrew’s voicemail.

In New Jersey, as Andrew meets up with family and old friends, we see him beginning to reconstruct what happened many years ago that led to his being estranged from his family. I won’t reveal the story here. Let’s just say that a meeting with a neurologist, suggested by his father when Andrew told him about painful flash headaches, sparked a new story for Andrew to live in.

Many believe that there comes a time in our lives when we must challenge the boundaries and beliefs that we grew up with. That is exactly what the neurologist challenges Andrew to do. In the meantime, the neurologist’s waiting room had one other person in it, Sam, who ended up being the joy to Andrew’s numbness, the possibility to his resignation, and the chance for him to be able to truly feel himself, his feelings, his emotions, and even love.

This movie unfolds beautifully, and reminds us that joy is a possibility, and that we can create that choice for ourselves

Questions for Reflection

  1. The next time you are with your family, observe the role that you habitually step into. Is this role a reflection of the you that you know yourself to be? How does this role serve you?
  2. One of the remarkable things about Andrew is that once he begins to feel again, he is completely committed to the possible pain of ‘doing his own work’ on himself, knowing that joy is available to him now. Have there been times in your life when you stepped into the next phase, on faith alone, and discovered more dimensions to yourself and to life than you had imagined before?
  3. One of the remarkable things about Sam, Andrew’s love interest, is her zest for life, her willingness to be vulnerable, silly, sweet, while at the same time aware and strong. Her zest for life catalyzes Andrew’s intention to step into a better version of himself. Who in your life reminds you not to take yourself so seriously? Are you that person for others in your life?

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