Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely: About a Boy and Up in the Air

up in the air and about a boy-loneliness

Collage by Chloe

Many films can touch us, but few can really speak to us. Although these two films, Up in the Air and About A Boy feature two male protagonists in their 40s+, I strangely find myself relating so much to their characters’ situations. These films both share the themes of loneliness and the search for human connection, and that transcends gender.

On top of being an introvert, (and I don’t mean that in a stupid BuzzFeed quiz kind of way, I really am an introvert. I cherish my alone time and need it to recharge) I am also a movie buff. So the combination of those two leads to always prefer spending time alone watching a movie. Now that I’m out of the confines of school, I don’t have tons of friends around me to do that with, either. So hanging out with strangers vs. myself? I’m always going to pick me. Why be out with a bunch of strangers when I can be snuggly in my bed catching up on my movie list? This leads me to always pass on social opportunities. But you find that the days can pass so quickly, and before you know it you’ve spent a month not doing anything but being home by yourself. And when you do go out in the world by yourself, you find yourself surrounded by people who are all together, be it friends or lovers. And suddenly you find that while you may like being alone, you don’t like being lonely.  So, I turn to these two films to remind myself to get out in the world.

About A Boy is one of my absolute favorite movies; it’s that perfect combination of being hilarious and heart-warming. Hugh Grant plays Will, a bachelor who is quite content living alone in with strings-free casual relationships. He’s wealthy enough to not have a job, and he finds that his days are more than filled with all that technology has to offer. His motto, “all men are islands”, he doesn’t want to get emotionally attached to anyone, he simply can’t deal with it. So Will finds himself in over his head when he accidentally befriends a 12-year-old boy and mother who is struggling with depression. Will eventually meets a woman Rachel, and through his new-found friendships he learns that he can care for people. Will even steps up and performs in the talent show with Marcus, something that the old Will would never do. He learns that, perhaps, not all men are islands but island chains. You can be alone at times, but you need to stay connected to others to stay afloat. There’s one scene where Will is alone for Christmas watching Frankenstein, he says “Alone, bad. Friend, good.” Couldn’t have said it any easier.

In Up in the Air, George Clooney plays Ryan Bingham, an always on-the-go bachelor who doesn’t want to be married or have kids. His motto? If you fill up all the people in your life in a backpack, they just weigh you down. The less relationships, the better. We all die alone anyway, right? When he finally falls for another like-minded career woman, played by Vera Farmiga, he is crushed to find out that she’s not only married, but she only thought of him as a “parenthesis”, someone not a part of her real life. In one scene, Ryan has to give a pep talk to his future brother-in-law, who’s having cold feet. He says, “If you think about it, your favorite memories, the most important moments in your life, were you alone? Life’s better with company.” This really hits you, because it’s so true.

The moral of both of these stories is that life is better living with others. Of course you should value your alone time and the relationship you have with yourself, but that’s nothing if you don’t have someone to share it with. Not just romantic ones, but even just having friends, someone to share your life and experiences. Every once in a while, you should take a chance and go out and do something different. I know I don’t always (aka never) want to, but sometimes when I do I surprise myself and have a good time. Life is better with company, or else, you’re just kind of like a ghost, floating around and not touching anyone in any significant way.

So while I may not be a 40 year old good-looking bachelor like George Clooney, or the charming-but-sleazy Hugh Grant, but at times I could find myself relating to them. Of course, I’ll never stop being a movie buff that cherishes my alone time. But sometimes I need to remind myself what about what living really means, that life isn’t always being alone and glued to the screen. I’ve got to go out and live a little, make a human connection, just like Up in the Air and About A Boy tells me. And isn’t that what films are good for? Opening our eyes to what we can’t realize ourselves? Everyone tells you the importance of family and of love, but seeing it on the screen makes it all the more real. Makes you want to go out and experience that for yourself. As the closing lines of About A Boy say, “It’s like Jon Bon Jovi said, ‘No man is an island’.”

By Caroline Madden

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