Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Check out The Cinema Scribe

Tune in for the latest Cinema Scribe segment on Bring Me 2 Life Radio, Wednesday, July 18, at 12:45 pm ET, available by clicking here. And, if you don't hear it live, catch it later on demand!

Monday, July 16, 2018

This Week in Movies with Meaning

Reviews of "Leave No Trace," "Three Identical Strangers" and "5th Passenger" are all in the latest Movies with Meaning post on the web site of The Good Media Network, available by clicking here.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

‘Leave No Trace’ asks us to understand the nature of our creations

“Leave No Trace” (2018). Cast: Ben Foster, Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie, Dale Dickey, Jeff Kober, Dana Millican, Derek Drescher, Isaiah Stone, David M. Pittman, Mike Prosser, Spencer S. Henley, Art Hickman, Susan Chernak McElroy. Director: Debra Granik. Screenplay: Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini. Book: Peter Rock, My Abandonment. Web site. Trailer.

Given the state of the world today, many of us have probably contemplated the notion of getting away from the stress of daily life, living off the grid to achieve a simpler existence. Eschewing a routine fraught with economic, social and even interpersonal tensions in favor of a more idyllic existence no doubt holds much appeal to those who feel overwhelmed by the spiraling demands of living in an increasingly frustrating world. Those who have a particularly difficult time coping with such conditions may find the prospect especially attractive. But is this really the answer? Or are other arrangements more suitable? And are we going back exercises like this with a clear mind and for the right reasons? Those are the issues faced by a father and daughter seeking to find answers for themselves in director Debra Granik’s emotionally powerful new drama, “Leave No Trace.”

Will, a middle-aged single father and former Marine (Ben Foster), and his teenage daughter, Tom (Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie), live an unconventional life in the forests near Portland, Oregon. Their secluded base camp provides them the necessities of life, as well as a few modest comforts and the materials necessary for Tom’s education. They grow or hunt for much of their food, but they periodically venture into civilization to obtain what Mother Nature doesn’t provide for them. It’s a life that demands much,, but they seem fairly content, unburdened by many of society’s frustrations.

Living off the grid in the woods offers single father and former Marine Will (Ben Foster, right) and his teenage daughter, Tom (Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie, left), a chance to escape the frustrations of society in the powerful new drama, “Leave No Trace.” Photo by Scott Green, courtesy of Bleecker Street Media.[/caption]

Perhaps the biggest challenge Will and Tom face is keeping themselves from being discovered. They periodically conduct drills where they practice hiding from authorities who might try to forcibly remove them from squatting on public lands. Otherwise, though, they appear to have their bases covered and their stress level relatively under control. And that’s important for Will, given that he suffers from PTSD.

Try though they might to remain inconspicuous, however, Will and Tom are eventually found out. They’re removed from the woods and placed under the auspices of social services. Father and daughter are assigned to two social workers, Jean (Dana Millican) and James (Mike Prosser), to assist them in their return to society. They arrange housing for Will and Tom in a small but comfy home located in a rural setting, placing them in conditions not identical but similar to what they previously had. They also secure work for Will as a farmhand at a Christmas tree nursery, an offer extended by the company’s kindly owner, Mr. Walters (Jeff Kober). Tom, meanwhile, gets an opportunity to meet other local teens, enabling her to form social connections with peers, probably for the first time in her life. She takes a particular liking to Isaiah (Isaiah Stone), an aspiring farmer with an affinity for raising rabbits.

Aspiring farmer Isaiah (Isaiah Stone, right) instructs his new friend, Tom (Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie, left), in the ways of raising rabbits at a 4H meeting in director Debra Granik’s latest offering, “Leave No Trace.” Photo by Scott Green, courtesy of Bleecker Street Media.[/caption]

However, despite the comparatively inoffensive nature of these new arrangements, Will quickly grows restless. He feels trapped, that he’s being forced into “adapting” to a world of which he wants no part. Tom tries to convince him that their new circumstances aren’t so bad, that they can learn to adjust to them, and that they always have the freedom to think their own thoughts, no matter how conventional their housing or work arrangements might be. But, as assuaging as Tom tries to make her arguments, she’s unable to sway her dad’s feelings, and, early one morning, he wakes her so that they can hit the road to escape – and to launch into a journey with an uncertain future.

With no definitive sense of direction, the duo quickly becomes lost, both literally and figuratively. Over the course of their odyssey, they encounter a number of challenges, some of which they’re not prepared to handle, despite their years of experience living off the grid. Several Samaritans cross their path to offer help and insight, including a friendly truck driver (Art Hickman), the manager of a small woodland trailer park (Dale Dickey), a former military medic (David M. Pittman) and a thoughtful beekeeper (Susan Chernak McElroy). But, even with such assistance, their fate is unclear, partly because of the unexpected perils they face, as well as a growing distance that’s opening up between father and daughter. With the emergence of differing agendas, the closeness that has long characterized their relationship is being put to the test.

Can the bond between Will and Tom survive this latest ordeal? That obviously remains to be seen. Much depends on their respective abilities to see their situation for what it really is. The time has come for them to examine why they’re living as they are, whether it will suffice for the future and what, if any, changes need to be made to suit their individual needs. The biggest question, though, is “Are they up to it?”

When trouble strikes, Dale (Dale Dickey, left), manager of a small woodland trailer park, offers assistance to Tom (Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie, right), a teen on the road with her father, in the new emotionally charged drama, “Leave No Trace.” Photo by Scott Green, courtesy of Bleecker Street Media.[/caption]

Whether Will and Tom can handle this ultimately depends on how they make use of the conscious creation process, the means by which we manifest the reality we experience through the power of our thoughts, beliefs and intents. But an assessment of their skills in this area may not be as clear cut as one might think.

For instance, considering how long (and apparently how well) Will and Tom managed to live off the land, one might be convinced that they are quite adept at using their beliefs to successfully create an alternate lifestyle. They were obviously able to envision such a result, handily having made a clear choice for themselves, overcoming any fears that might have stood in their way and pushing past limitations that could have blocked their path.

But is the creation of a successfully manifested material outcome all there is to this? While it’s true that Will and Tom are quite capable of working out the mechanics of achieving the result they want, can the same be said for them arriving at an understanding of why they did it? What were the beliefs that drove their reasons for why they did what they did?

Superficially speaking, one could say that their reason for creating a sustainable life in the woods was to enjoy the benefits of living off the grid, of getting away from the troubling trappings of modern society, an effort not unlike what Henry David Thoreau did when he moved to Walden Pond. However, as becomes apparent over the course of the film, Will, it seems, has also made this move to escape the pain of his past, including the loss of his wife and the trauma associated with his military service.

To escape everyday life, single father and former Marine Will (Ben Foster, right) and his teenage daughter, Tom (Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie, left), hit the road in “Leave No Trace.” Photo by Scott Green, courtesy of Bleecker Street Media.[/caption]

In light of the foregoing, one can’t help but ask, was Will invoking beliefs aimed at genuinely seeking solitude from his pain, or was he simply running away from his life? Based on how events unfold, one could make a good case for either contention. However, the further one gets into the story, it’s easy to see that Will’s anxious to hide at almost any cost, even going so far as to move forward without a plan for how to proceed, a circumstance that could lead to calamity. This is un-conscious creation at work, where attaining a desired outcome outstrips any associated considerations, most notably consequences, a potentially perilous prospect.

The ramifications behind this could be staggering, especially for Will. Even though he may be able to physically escape to the woods, can he really evade his personal demons? Unless he makes an attempt at implementing beliefs aimed at addressing this issue, it will continue to dog him, no matter how far he gets away from society.

What’s more, Will assumes that, because Tom is his daughter, she will automatically follow him, as her provider,  wherever he goes, even if his actions (and the beliefs behind them) don’t make sense or fail to meet their respective needs. But is that indeed true? With Tom reaching the age where she’s able to assert her independence, who’s to say that she will just go along with what Will does simply because he’s her father?

These considerations thus illustrate the importance of clearly understanding the nature of our beliefs, for what we experience in our reality will flow forth from them. We must also be honest with ourselves about them, because, if we’re not, we run the risk of falling prey to wishful thinking, leading to results that are distorted or could lead to disappointment and disillusionment. There are lessons in this for both father and daughter, but they’re especially critical for Will, not only in terms of his quality of life, but also for his relationship with Tom and, above all, his peace of mind. To put it metaphorically, the forest will always be there, even if we can’t see it for the trees; yet, if we hope to benefit from everything the woods have to offer, we had better make sure our vision is sharp, especially when it comes to the beliefs we employ for bringing it into being.

“Leave No Trace” offers viewers a powerful tale about living off the grid, dealing with adaptation to society’s expectations and reconciling our feelings about our past. The film’s superb performances and beautiful cinematography lend much to an engaging story that undoubtedly captures the kinds of smoldering sentiments many of us feel but don’t necessarily have the courage or wherewithal to act upon. Admittedly, he narrative meanders a bit much at times, but, considering the nature of the story, that’s probably not entirely unexpected. A little tightening in the editing, as well as a better fleshed-out back story, would have helped considerably, changes aimed at making a good film a truly great one (though, as it stands now, it’s certainly one of 2018’s better offerings).

Living our lives with personal integrity is undoubtedly a noble pursuit, even if it just means creating a satisfying personal existence that suits our individual perspective and not necessarily fulfilling lofty accomplishments that benefit greater mankind. But, in pursuing such a path, we must be conscious of what we do, to live with awakened, informed intent and presence of mind. To do otherwise can lead to an exercise in self-delusion, one that could possibly leave us interminably lost in the woods of our being with no way out.

Copyright © 2018, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.

‘Sorry to Bother You’ wrestles with destiny, integrity

“Sorry to Bother You” (2018). Cast: Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Jermaine Fowler, Omari Hardwick, Terry Crews, Danny Glover, Armie Hammer, Kate Berlant, Michael X. Sommers, Steven Yeun, Robert Longstreet, Forest Whitaker, Indigo Jackson, Elaine Clark, Patton Oswalt (voice), David Cross (voice), Lily James (voice), Rosario Dawson (voice). Director: Boots Riley. Screenplay: Boots Riley. Web site. Trailer.

What does it mean to be in charge of your own destiny? Do you have a handle on what you want and what you’ve created for yourself? Or have you been swept up with the current, unwittingly fulfilling others’ agendas, bringing you material success but prompting you to compromise your values and integrity? And, if so, how do you proceed? Those are some of the thorny questions probed in the hilarious, biting, new satire, “Sorry to Bother You.”

Successful telemarketer Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield, right) runs into a rough patch with his fiancé, Detroit (Tessa Thompson, left), when their career goals conflict in the biting new satire, “Sorry to Bother You.” Photo courtesy of Annapurna Pictures.[/caption]

Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield) desperately needs a job. The long-unemployed African-American Oakland resident lives with his aspiring performance artist fiancé, Detroit (Tessa Thompson), in the garage of a home owned by his Uncle Sergio (Terry Crews). He drives a clunker car and is months behind in his rent payments, threatening his uncle’s ability to hold onto the house. He really needs to get back to work.

For what it’s worth, Cassius lands an entry-level position at a somewhat sleazy telemarketing company run by a team of oily managers and supervisors (Robert Longstreet, Michael X. Sommers, Kate Berlant). And, at least initially, the job proves to be a rather thankless slog where his calls constantly meet with abrupt ends and success is highly elusive. However, thanks to the advice of his seasoned co-worker, Langston (Danny Glover), Cassius manages to reverse his misfortunes by effectively employing his “White voice,” an attribute to which customers respond favorably. He’s such a whiz at employing it, in fact, that he gets promoted to the position of “power caller,” a high-paying job reserved for a few gifted telemarketers who’ve demonstrated their ability to sell just about anything to anyone.

High-powered telemarketer Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield, right) runs afoul of his friends and former co-workers, Salvatore (Jermaine Fowler, left) and Squeeze (Steven Yeun, center), when he sells them out in the outrageous new comedy, “Sorry to Bother You.” Photo courtesy of Annapurna Pictures.[/caption]

However, unlike the books he had been selling in his original position, Cassius now finds himself being tasked with peddling more questionable commodities, including, among other things, the services of indentured workers whose labor is tantamount to modern-day slavery. Such prospects give him momentary pause, but that hesitation quickly evaporates when he sees the kind of money he can make by going along with the program. Within no time, Cassius sees himself earning fortunes far greater than he ever could have imagined. He’s able to trade his uncle’s garage for a luxury apartment and to obtain a snazzy new set of wheels. He’s living large, to be sure, but it comes at a cost, most notably in his relationships with Detroit and with his friends and former co-workers, Salvatore (Jermaine Fowler) and Squeeze (Steven Yeun).

If that weren’t enough, though, the stakes soon get raised even higher when Cassius is offered a lucrative but dubious new job from Steve Lift (Armie Hammer), owner of a conglomerate that’s his employer’s largest client. However, when Cassius learns what would be expected of him, he’s appalled at the prospect, one that would require some truly unnatural efforts on his part. He must now decide what his soul is worth to him – and whether or not that’s something he’s willing to sell.

These are questions many of us face from time to time, be it in our work lives or in other significant contexts. They often push us to come to terms with who we are and what we’re willing to do, essentially meeting our personal integrity head on. And “Sorry to Bother You” never hesitates to squarely confront these issues from a variety of angles. In doing so, the film offers biting social commentary on a variety of fronts, including the conditions of the lives of the working class, the disparity between haves and have-nots, and the shocking lengths that the greedy will pursue in the name of wealth acquisition. What we think about these issues can have staggering implications.

Conglomerate head Steve Lift (Armie Hammer) seeks to amass even more wealth than the fortune he’s already attained in director Boots Riley’s feature film debut, “Sorry to Bother You.” Photo courtesy of Annapurna Pictures.[/caption]

What one thinks, of course, is a central theme in the film, especially where Cassius is concerned. Given the circumstances that unfold in his life, his beliefs about who he is, what he wants and what he’s willing to do are constantly put on the spot. How he responds through those beliefs is crucial, too, for that will determine what materializes in his everyday existence, thanks to the conscious creation process, the means by which we manifest the reality we experience through the power of our thoughts, beliefs and intents.

Cassius’s responses vary from knee-jerk reactions to deliberate decisions. When his back is against the wall and survival is on the line, he needs to deal from a position of expediency, and his beliefs (and their resulting creations) assume forms that fulfill those requirements. But, once he attains a modicum of sustainability and comfort, his beliefs present him with choices – options unlike anything he’s had access to previously. And those choices place him in a position where he gets an opportunity to assess and act upon his values and integrity, qualities that are directly in line with the nature of his true self.

How will he respond? That depends on the circumstances and how he believes he can fit into them. Is he willing to turn a blind eye for a fat paycheck? Or is his concern for the society of which he’s a part a more important overriding consideration? In conscious creation terms, there are no right or wrong answers in this regard, only choices. But, in light of the consequences that can arise from our belief decisions, we’d be wise to evaluate our options carefully, for the fallout can have staggering implications – and they can materialize with surprising ease and speed, sometimes appearing before we ever realize what’s happened.

Seasoned telemarketer Langston (Danny Glover) offers a co-worker advice on how to succeed in his career by making use of his “White voice” in the biting new satire “Sorry to Bother You.” Photo by Peter Prato, courtesy of Annapurna Pictures.[/caption]

These questions are largely addressed through career track considerations. That’s certainly significant, given that our very livelihood depends on what we do about them. But, as the film shows, there’s a carry-over effect that impacts other parts of our existence. Since our working life is based on the relationships we build with others – some of which are close, such as those we have with colleagues, and others that are more removed but nevertheless significant, such as those we forge with customers – there’s a personal aspect that comes into play as well, one that can have significant ramifications. If we take a cavalier attitude with our belief decisions, even with vocational concerns, there may be implications that leave lasting impressions, some of which can be hurtful in our interpersonal dealings. Are material gains worth the cost of potentially harming those we claim to care about? This is where paying attention to our integrity – and forming beliefs in line with it – become utterly critical.

However, in addressing all of these matters, the film is far from all seriousness and oppressive gloom and doom. Rather, it skewers these topics with biting satire that serves up big, outrageous laughs that also make viewers think. Without a doubt, director Boots Riley’s feature film debut is one of the weirdest, wildest movies I have ever seen – so strange, in fact, that I’m amazed (but thankful) that this project got the green light to go forward. This dark, poignant comedy weaves elements of satire, sci fi and social commentary along with a plot that keeps viewers guessing from start to finish, with unforeseen twists thrown in at seemingly every turn. Not all of the jokes land successfully, and even some that do work at times seem out of context, but the bulk of the humor is uproarious, over the top and tinged with thought-provoking observations. The picture also provides a superb showcase for Stanfield, who is clearly stepping up as an acting force to be reckoned with. To be sure, “Sorry to Bother You” won’t appeal to everyone, but those who have an off-the-wall sense of humor and enjoy unconventional offerings like “Get Out” (2017), “Brazil” (1985) and “Liquid Sky” (1982) will certainly appreciate this one.

Most of us will likely agree that aiming for the stars is a laudable goal. But how far are we willing to go to reach them? That’s something many of us are having to ask ourselves these days, and that’s certainly something none of us should look at as being a bother.

Copyright © 2018, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.

Monday, July 9, 2018

This Week in Movies with Meaning

Reviews of "Sorry to Bother You" and "Boundaries," as well as a radio show preview, are all in the latest Movies with Meaning post on the web site of The Good Media Network, available by clicking here.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Get Your Intuition On!

A Voice told Bill Bennett to slow down. "Slow Down?" he thought. "I want to speed up to catch the green light." Bill was on his way to the airport. The Voice told him again "SLOW DOWN!" So he did. Those precious seconds bought Bill his life. A transport truck barreled through the intersection, and Bill was within a hair's breath away from sure death. It made him wonder. "Who or what was that Voice? Where did it come from?" Join Frankie Picasso and yours truly on a special edition of The Good Media Network's Frankiesense & More as we interview Bill about his life-altering journey, as detailed in his new documentary, "PGS: Intuition is Your Personal Guidance System." Tune in by clicking here for a fascinating discussion.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

‘Boundaries’ explores the need for establishing healthy limits

“Boundaries” (2018). Cast: Vera Farmiga, Christopher Plummer, Lewis MacDougall, Christopher Lloyd, Kirsten Schaal, Bobby Cannavale, Peter Fonda, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Dolly Wells, Chelah Horsdal, Ryan Robbins, Jill Teed, Sean Tyson, Halldor Bjarnason, Emily Holmes. Director: Shana Feste. Screenplay: Shana Feste. Web site. Trailer.

When is enough enough? For some of us, the answer is obvious, and it marks the point where we put our foot down. But, for others, the line may not at all be clear; in fact, it could be essentially invisible, which can lead to all kinds of problems. Learning how to identify these demarcation points and subsequently implementing the requisite barriers can thus become a crucial life skill as a middle-aged mom struggling with the issue discovers for herself in the new road trip comedy-drama, “Boundaries.”

Laura Jaconi (Vera Farmiga) desperately needs to set some boundaries in her life. The single mother from Seattle seems compelled to take on all of the world’s hard luck cases. For starters, she’s a serial rescuer of stray dogs and cats, adopting so many animals that her house has become a virtual kennel. Then there’s Laura’s teenage son, Henry (Lewis MacDougall), a bright, talented illustrator whose outspoken attitude (and even more brazenly provocative drawings) frequently land him in trouble with everyone from his mother’s would-be romantic interest (Ryan Robbins) to the school principal (Jill Teed). Even Laura’s job offers no relief; in her role as an executive assistant to a wealthy, needy, demanding socialite (Dolly Wells), she’s often put upon to perform miracles to fulfill her boss’s whims.

Serial pet rescuer Laura Jaconi (Vera Farmiga) needs to establish healthy limits for herself in the new road trip comedy-drama, “Boundaries.” Photo by Lindsay Elliott, courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.[/caption]

However, as onerous as these circumstances are, Laura’s biggest challenge comes from her 85-year-old father, Jack (Christopher Plummer). Daughter and dad have a long history of issues that stretch all the way back to Laura’s childhood. As a shady, unreliable, often-absent parent, Jack spent more time working on an assortment of dubious business and gambling schemes than he did as an engaged father raising Laura and her sister, JoJo (Kirsten Schaal), frequently leaving the girls on their own. These circumstances thus forced Laura into becoming “the responsible one” at an early age, a quality that quite obviously carried over into her adult life. Unfortunately, given the lack of attention that she so desperately craved from her old man, these conditions also created a mindset that she could never do enough – for anyone – in her quest to receive the approval and acknowledgment she sought.

It’s no wonder that all of this has landed Laura in therapy. And even there she doesn’t let up, incessantly continuing her people pleasing ways with her counselor (Chelah Horsdal). Laura’s therapist tries to convince her that she’s basically doing well; all she really needs to do is set some healthy limits for herself, a message that Laura hears but that she doesn’t let sink in, because she fundamentally believes that she could (or should) be doing more, no matter what the circumstances. That’s a belief in which she’s about to get some truly powerful life lessons.

Even though Laura has been intentionally trying to implement some boundaries between herself and her long-absent dad, it’s become difficult, ironically enough, given his now-persistent cell phone calls. She tries ignoring the endless incoming messages, but conditions at home finally force her hand into making contact with Jack: When Henry gets expelled from his school for drawing yet another of his lascivious illustrations, it’s apparent he needs to attend an institution for those who have special needs and gifts, an expensive proposition to be sure. Which is where Jack comes in. Despite the questionable nature of his business dealings over the years, Laura is under the impression that the old man is at least fairly well off financially and that he’s someone she can call on to help her out. Unfortunately, that proves to be a false assumption, particularly when Laura learns that Jack is being kicked out of his nursing home and has nowhere else to go.

Jack Jaconi (Christopher Plummer, left) and his daughter, Laura (Vera Farmiga, right), embark on a road trip to heal old wounds and sell a little pot in the new road trip comedy-drama, “Boundaries.” Photo by Lindsay Elliott, courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.[/caption]

Jack asks to move in with Laura and Henry, but she won’t have it, believing that he would be a bad influence on her son. To counter that proposal, she makes arrangements to have Jack move in with JoJo in her Los Angeles apartment. Jack agrees but on one condition – that Laura drive him from Seattle to LA, an idea she resists – that is, until she learns that Jack will give her the money for Henry’s school if she complies.

Laura finds Jack’s proposal tempting but wonders what’s behind the road trip. In part, he contends that, because of his failing health, he wants to spend some time with her and Henry while he has the chance. But it’s also at this point when the reason for Jack’s expulsion from his nursing home and the source of proposed funding for his grandson’s schooling become apparent: In yet another questionable business deal, Jack has become a purveyor of high-end pot, with clients lined up all along the West Coast – conveniently enough from Seattle to Los Angeles. If he can make delivery of his wares via a road trip, he’ll collect the money and give it to Laura for Henry’s tuition.

Knowing that Laura won’t go for the idea, Jack tells her no details about his plan; he simply says he needs to make some stops along the way from Washington to California. He does tell Henry, however, recruiting him as a sort of apprentice, an idea the young man finds way cool. The teen thus becomes a de facto accomplice, as well as a guardian of grandpa’s back at times when the plan is in danger of being revealed.

Octogenarian Jack Jaconi (Christopher Plummer, left) introduces his teenage grandson, Henry (Lewis MacDougall, right), to the world of dealing designer pot in the new road trip comedy-drama, “Boundaries.” Photo by Lindsay Elliott, courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.[/caption]

And so it’s under these circumstances that the unlikely trio and an assortment of rescue pets set off on their journey. It’s one in which they’ll have a variety of adventures and many conversations about a past that desperately requires closure. They’ll also encounter an array of colorful characters, including some of Jack’s old friends (Christopher Lloyd, Halldor Bjarnason, Peter Fonda) and Laura’s ex-husband, Leonard (Bobby Cannavale), the man who walked out on her and Henry three years earlier.

Will the travelers find the answers they’re looking for? Will the wounds of the past heal? And will the boundaries in question be set to where they should be? That’s what the journey is all about. And, to paraphrase the Grateful Dead, what a long strange trip it is.

As I’ve written on a number of previous occasions, road trip movies provide the perfect metaphor for the journeys of our lives, and the trek in “Boundaries” is no exception. To find the lessons and answers we seek, sometimes we need to get away from familiar circumstances to clear away the clutter and the camouflage that might obscure our view in more familiar, more comfortable environs. The journey provides a progression of new events, experiences and perspectives that shake us up (and, one would hope, out of our complacency) in finding fresh ideas, beliefs and manifestations. In essence, it encapsulates our experience as ever-evolving individuals, leaving behind who we were and enabling us to become who we believe we can be.

In many ways, this is what lies at the heart of the conscious creation process, the means by which we materialize the reality we experience through the power of our thoughts, beliefs and intents. Such odysseys demonstrate how we’re all in a constant state of becoming, ever transforming from one milieu of existence into another through the conceptions of what we seek to manifest. And, as the scenario in this story shows, there’s a wide variety of probable experiences to be had, depending on what we conceive of and ultimately allow.

Jack Jaconi (Christopher Plummer, right) and his old friend, Stanley (Christopher Lloyd, left), renew old ties while on a West Coast road trip in the new comedy-drama, “Boundaries.” Photo by Lindsay Elliott, courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.[/caption]

There’s quite an irony in this case, though, given that the story deals with the question of boundaries, something that generally flies in the face of what conscious creation is all about. In most instances, conscious creation encourages us to break through the limitations that hold us back, to seek new adventures and experiences that are typically beyond what we associate with everyday life. However, in this story, the protagonist is in need to doing just the opposite – setting barriers that allow her to become a more effective conscious creation practitioner.

Why is this so? Laura obviously has no trouble giving of herself and seeing the need to step in and offer help when it’s required by those who are less fortunate or who require guidance. In those circumstances, though, it’s possible to adopt manifesting beliefs that allow us to spread ourselves too thin. This, in turn, can dilute our materialization efforts, and, in the process, we may unwittingly put our own needs on the back burner while in service to others. There’s certainly nothing wrong with wanting to be of assistance, but, when we employ beliefs that cause us to carry the idea to an extreme, we can readily shortchange ourselves. This not only keeps us from attending to our own requirements, but it can also ultimately hamper what we do for others by causing us to operate from a position of personal weakness instead of personal strength. That can leave us depleted, ineffective and of little use, both to ourselves and our beneficiaries.

This is where the benefits of boundaries come into play. One might assume that their establishment would be something seemingly easy to accomplish, yet many of us have trouble with this. Many of us keep giving and giving (often “until it hurts,” as many charities and religious institutions have encouraged over the years), never learning when to draw the line. For some of us, then, learning how to establish necessary, delineated limits may ultimately prove to be just as challenging as learning how to break down barriers. And, because of that, we may need to intentionally manifest circumstances where we give ourselves the opportunities to attain those very lessons, difficult or challenging though that may be.

In creating such scenarios, we may end up attracting to ourselves conditions that seem patently unfair. In Laura’s case, for example, she’s saddled herself with being the daughter of an unreliable father, the single mother of an unruly teen, the ex-wife of a self-absorbed former husband and the employee of a demanding boss. And, if that weren’t enough, she perpetually seeks to take on even more with all of the rescue pets she so unreservedly shelters.

Given these circumstances, anyone with a healthy sense of boundaries would likely and rightfully ask, when will enough be enough? How much more is she going to take on? Can’t she see what she’s doing to herself (and possibly those around her)?

While conscious creation has an inherent sense of responsibility associated with what we manifest, that naturally includes our responsibility to ourselves. Yet many of us have somehow lost sight of that, willingly if unwittingly allowing ourselves to forego our own needs in favor of what we do for others. This is not to suggest that we should become selfish or uncaring when it comes to those around us, but it’s also not an open invitation to treat ourselves as doormats in the fulfillment of our own needs.

Again, this is where boundaries come into play. But, if we’re to put them in place and are unsure how to do so, we must create for ourselves the circumstances where we come to see the need for their establishment. For those of us who are unpracticed at this or who fundamentally resist the idea of their implementation, we must often manifest situations that are so over the top that we can no longer tolerate what we’re experiencing. And this is how some of those seemingly unfair conditions may show up in our lives – they’re all part of our learning process, showing us what we are and are not willing to put up with.

For example, would Laura grasp this idea if she didn’t have such an irresponsible father, self-serving ex-husband or capricious boss in her life? It’s under circumstances like this when the barriers eventually start to go up to create the kinds of healthy boundaries we were meant to have. In fact, if these teachers had all been more conciliatory toward Laura, she may have missed out on the lesson of learning how to establish boundaries in her life, potentially drawing out her learning curve or preventing her from acquiring this skill at all.

Situations like this show us that there are reasons behind why things unfold as they do, even they don’t seemingly make sense at a surface level. The key is recognizing the underlying beliefs and what they were intended to achieve. This is where the “conscious” in conscious creation makes its presence felt. The more we recognition the nature and purpose of our beliefs, the more readily we’ll see how and why our existence materializes as it does – boundaries and all.

This pleasant, frequently amusing road trip/family comedy-drama deals in the realities of establishing healthy limits in a way that few movies are willing to take on as forthrightly as this one does. It does a fine job of examining knowing when to set limits, when to break rules and when to let go of expectations that are never going to be fulfilled. The picture’s excellent ensemble cast of both human and animal actors lends considerable credibility to the narrative, making for an enjoyable viewing experience. Admittedly, there is some occasional over-the-top wackiness that seems out of place, but “Boundaries” overall offers up a story that effectively weaves warmth, fun and heartfelt emotion into a pleasing, satisfying package.

In his legendary work “Mending Wall,” poet Robert Frost wrote “Good fences make good neighbours,” a sentiment apropos to this film. While Frost may not have been speaking about the kinds of boundaries addressed in this picture per se, he might as well have been, because his advice is just as sound, as many of us often find (and that Laura is beginning to discover for herself). May we always be able to locate the necessary metaphysical bricks and mortar when we need  them – especially when the neighbours start to become a little too intrusive.

Copyright © 2018, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.

Monday, July 2, 2018

This Week in Movies with Meaning

Reviews of "PGS: Intuition is Your Personal Guidance System" and "Henry David Thoreau: Surveyor of the Soul," as well as a radio show preview, are all in the latest Movies with Meaning post on the web site of The Good Media Network, available by clicking here.

[caption id="attachment_9987" align="aligncenter" width="243"] Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862).[/caption]