James is an all American boy whose promising life is brought to a halt by acute depression. Turning his back on the most progressive western treatments and medicines, James discovers ayahuasca in search of healing in the Peruvian jungle. Over the course of 10 months venturing from Shaman to Shaman, James finds friendship, answers and a kind of redemption hidden deep in the Peruvian amazon.
First I want to say; I really wanted and needed to hate this movie. The scenario of a depressed American going to Peru to "find himself" through the dubious ritual of ayahuasca is suspicious to say the least. The whole premise of the movie is close to the core of birdbrained projects like Eat Pray Love or the newfound reality TV concepts where spoiled brats from Britain starts to appreciate the conform reality of their native country, through the wisdom of appreciation one might feel witnessing a harsher reality.
So the premise is quite dull. The result is not only strong, it's also extremely necessary, its essence is reaching for the core of the problem of being young today. The hero of the movie has no capacity to speak of. He's almost unable to communicate at all. This is annoying to begin with, but after very few scenes, being critical to his approach becomes almost impossible. Why? Because it would render you inhuman. He's not talking to your normality. He's talking to your empathy. Testing it. Though the hero, who essentially is an antagonist, couldn't care less what you think. Not because he's self centered, as you might perceive him to be, but because he's standing on the edge of life. He's staring into the abyss.
As he drowsily wanders through the markets of Peru, the sleepwalker that he is appears, forcing you to realize how vulnerable he is. You want to shake him like his father once did, shake him out of it, though you know this is impossible. Does he want to save himself? Does he want to live? This is not the question that the filmmakers or James Freeman asks. They are asking the question if it's possible to live outside the premises of the sickness of modern society without becoming sick yourself. This is a simple but deep question, an honorable challenge. They execute this with great elegance and pragmatism, with a cold warmth that slowly seeps into your consciousness.
This is a small movie. An unimportant movie. You can only understand how grand it is, how extremely important it is, if you take the conclusion to heart. Are birds free from the chains of the skyway? We don't need to be anyone. Our only obligation to ourselves is to be.
James Freeman is a free man. Freedom is the hardest aspect of existence. He's dealing with the challenges that Antoine Roquentin faces in Nausea. Maybe accidentally stumbles into the most complex questions of contemporary reality.
This is not a movie for the shallow minded, or for movie geeks, or people who's watching movies because of their artistic preferences. This is a movie for the faint hearted. It'll help them to understand being in itself has honor. Being an antagonist to the premises of society itself makes you a hero.
I give this movie 10/10, not because it's perfect, but because it never tried to be. In weakness we find excellence.
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