I just returned from seeing The Secret Life of Walter Mitty at the theater. I have been seeing a lot of movies over the last 6 months (1-2 per week). Most of the time I go alone, which I am becoming accustomed to. I have seen movies of all genres and enjoyed most of them. The Walter Mitty movie affected me in a strange way and I’m not sure why. Maybe you can help me?
In a nutshell, I appreciated the humor. I found myself laughing out loud on a number of occasions when others in the audience remained silent. At the same time, in between the laughter, I was on the edge of tears during much of the movie. If I had been alone, I probably would have allowed myself to have a good cry. I appreciate those therapeutic tears that leave you feeling refreshed from the release of emotional energy – don’t you?
Why did I have this very personal emotional reaction?
For one thing, I immediately identified with the Walter Mitty character (played by Ben Stiller who also directed). I was feeling what I imagined Mitty was feeling about his past and present life, and how it might be morphed into (or by) his fantasy life.
Mitty knew there were pieces missing from his life experiences. Some of those pieces were missing because he had a habit of not fully embracing what was around him. Other pieces were missing because he never bothered to look for them. His life had been patterned and constrained to the point that his imagination had become a primary source of fulfillment.
Is that me? Is that why I became emotional?
I don’t think so – not yet.
I confess to being prone to having strong emotional reactions to many movies. Tearjerkers can affect me but tears brought on by stories of joy or redemption are more common.
I believe I identified with Walter Mitty – as a baby boomer – because I still have an opportunity to write more chapters in my life story. Or maybe I can start a new story altogether. I have raised my sons, achieved some career success, and now have some time and money available to move in different directions. In the movie, Walter started writing his new life story. His need for fantasy diminished. The patterns had been broken. Life was new and fresh, again.
Good for Walter. Good for me?
Go see the movie. Put yourself inside Walter’s character. Let his dissatisfactions with his present life touch your dissatisfaction. Let his yearnings for new relationships and new experiences tap into your yearnings. That’s what I think I did. Then come back here and tell us how you reacted.