The irony is not lost on your not-so-humble reviewer in stating that a desire to remain on the Nice List of Santa and a related hope to find an Apple watch under the tree in a couple of weeks is behind the confession that starts this post on the well-produced thought-provoking Virgil Films recent DVD release of the 2017 drama "Walden: Life in the Woods." Merely looking at the site homepage photo, which is roughly 20 collectibles out-of-date, of my home office indicates a love of stuff with no practical worth.
This admission is that, although I LOVE walking around Walden Pond, I HATE HATE HATE HATE the style and related undue complexity of the book "Walden" that Henry David Thoreau writes while in seclusion by that body of water when he does not walk into town to visit friends and family and to restock the provisions in his austere cabin. This is not to mention the unintended humor as to the Boston-area Walden site charging $15 for pahking that also has a gift shop that sells a wide variety of goods with no practical value that extol the simplicity philosophy of Thoreau.
This loathing of the source material is the root of unfounded concern that "Walden" the film would completely consist of the prose that repeatedly ended up scattered all over my 10th-grade dorm room after repeatedly being thrown against the wall of that austere accommodation. This is not to mention reprimands for using "inappropriate language" while reading that book; a certain part of the anatomy of Thoreau would be incurably sore if an oft-repeated command to him was a reality.
The good news extends beyond this solid film saving viewers that fate almost as bad as death. This movie is a relatable fable for our dsytopian times. The laudable message is to not allow the stress of career and a desire for material goods to impair your happiness and ruin your relationships; in simpler terms, do not live above your means or allow your love of material possessions to trump (pun intended) your love of your fellow man.
The following "Walden" trailer highlight both the indie film and source-material philosophy of the movie. At the very least, "Walden" provides almost two hours of intriguing drama and serenity in our highly troubled and divided times.
Our story centers around middle-aged middle-manager Ramirez (Oscar nominee Demian Bichir for "A Better Life"), whose not very good day begins with having to tell his wife that the nursing home where he works has cut both his hours and his benefits. This hits particularly close to home when Ramirez learns that the cost of the medicine that his daughter needs for a chronic condition has significantly risen. His subsequent conversation with an overseas rep. of his insurance company is frustratingly relatable to all of us who regularly are there and do that.
Soon after arriving at his job, Ramirez is confronted by boss Charlie (wonderfully offbeat T.J. Miller), who tasks him with telling the maintenance guy/Ramirez buddy that that guy must become an independent contractor and reduce his hours if he wants to keep his job. The relatability this time is the many occasions that the low person on the totem pole is forced to knowingly put an unconvincing positive spin on a callous corporate policy.
The nursing-home "guests" include Alice, who largely mentally does not live here anymore, Her role in the really rotten not-so-good day of Ramirez is her high-strung grandson Guy, who gives the guy (no pun intended) who is not paid enough to put up with this "stuff" grief about using air freshener in the room of his grandmother.
This visit occurs just as Guy and laid-back boyfriend Luke are headed out for the titular hike/camping trip. Their stress extends beyond the boys disagreeing about how to interact with Alice to Luke arguing that the stress and the greed associated with Guy selling wealthy investors on the profits associated with wind turbines outweighing the social good of helping put those turbines in operation.
The strain on the relationship escalates in the woods and fully comes to a head when Luke springs a radical lifestyle change on his partner,
Meanwhile, the post-work-period of Ramirez that is not devoted to getting his daughter her medication is divided between buying a kitchen sink and convincing a bank to refinance his mortgage. These adventures first cause Ramirez to focus on the prices of the items in the Home Depot where he is shopping and to continue that exercise at home. This is reminiscent of a scene in one of the social-commentary films that Jack Lemmon makes in the '60s. In this one, he plays a top-level executive who calculates the total expenses that he faces simply on waking up each morning.
The impact of the day causes Ramirez to execute his own radical experiment while he is home alone; the scene in which his wife arrives and Ramirez and viewers are equally anxious as to her reaction to his actions aptly ends this film about focusing on the value of the natural world.
Virgil honors the Thoreau spirit by not including special features on the DVD.