Tuesday, 17 March 2015

100th Post: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

This week I am reviewing the film The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013), a Ben Stiller film that sees him direct and play the title role.

Copyright: Twentieth Century Fox
So, Walter Mitty is your average guy with a caring family and a good job, working in the photography department of Life magazine. He is obviously a little shy and often zones out into wild fantasies where he is the hero defeating those who annoy him in real life, or impressing his new work colleague Cheryl, played by Kristen Wigg, who he has a crush on. However, his normal day begins to go awry when it's announced that Life is moving online, and he discovers the photo for the last issue's cover is missing. Desperate to find the photo in time, Walter decides the only thing he can do is track down the person who took it, the world-travelling photographer Sean O'Connell, played by Sean Penn - even if that means travelling to Greenland to find him. 

This film came out a couple of years ago and I remember the trailers and hype for it. At the time some critics weren't to impressed. Perhaps this is because, admittedly, the daydreaming sequences and the reality jar a bit - the day dreams are creative but more wacky compared to the gentle tone of reality. Or perhaps its because the film is basically a moving inspiration poster.

Beyond those criticisms though, I thought this film was wonderful. It is a beautiful film, filled with lovely landscapes that I doubt many people will have seen before - because lets be honest, how many times have you seen Iceland and Greenland in an American film? The characters seem real, and Walter Mitty is a shy, nice-guy protagonist we can all relate too. 

Now, normally I don't usually discuss serious issues beyond the media on this blog - but this is my hundredth blog post so, excuses! - but whilst I was watching this film I couldn't help but think that it might appeal, and resonant with, people with maladaptive daydreaming.  

If you haven't heard of maladaptive daydreaming or MD before, its basically where someone daydreams to an addictive extent, and it starts to disrupt their lives. People with MD can spend hours, even a whole days, just daydreaming and neglecting daily activities. The person daydreaming will often do something physically repetitive like pace or tap whilst daydreaming, while these sessions can be set off by a variety of triggers - like reading books, watching television shows and listening to music. 

Of course, I'm not suggesting that Walter Mitty has MD in the film, but I do think that those with MD might relate to it - especially when you consider that Walter daydreams even though he has a great job and a loving family. People often seem to think that daydreamers are running away from reality and must think life is dull or horrible, and that can be true, but daydreaming can also be just a coping mechanism for other things like anxiety or part of other conditions. 

In the case of Walter his habit of drifting off is probably down to his being shy and feeling more confident in his daydreams, or  - spoiler! - because he feels subconsciously unfulfilled after missing a chance to travel. Meanwhile in his imagination he can be the exciting, interesting traveller. Then when Walter tells a friend that he's not daydreaming so much after all his travels,  it seems like this has happened  because he's dealt with the root of why he zoned out in the first place - he no long feels like he has to imagine himself doing amazing things, because he has done some and gained confidence through that. At least that's what I like to think. 

In summary
An inspirational film, that is funny, poignant and makes you to get out and travel. A highly recommended watch, at the very least to see the incredible landscapes and some wild skateboarding!

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