Friday, 4 March 2016

let it be

there's a moment in let it be when carl (bertie gilbert) explains that he likes the later beatles music for its complexity, which is the opposite of martha (dodie clark) who likes the earlier music for its simplicity (for the record i don't really like any beatles music, but i get it, it's like the difference between the ramones and velvet undergound, although in that case i kind of like both ... but maybe that's the point...). that conflict between wanting complexity from our art against enjoying its simplicity is exactly how i felt watching the film, and i think it's kind of what the whole film is about. i've not really been able to think about anything else since i watched it so i thought i'd attempt to explain.

on the surface this is a film about a young couple who've broken up and before they can sort out their issues death (savannah brown) turns up and decides to hang with them for a day. it's hard to watch this without thinking of neil gaiman's death from the sandman series, particularly from 'the high cost of living', which also features death living for a day. savannah brown is more emo than gaiman's eternally happy death, but her eagerness to experiment with all the things she's heard make life worth living is definitely a similar concept. however, the film isn't really about death, but more about all three characters and the things that stand in the way of them moving on with their lives. death is having an existential crisis stemming from her job, carl needs to figure out why martha dumped him, and martha ... i can't really reveal martha's problem without spoiling things but it's up there with the big problems. ultimately all three characters learn to accept their situations; they learn to 'let it be' like the title suggests. but is that all there is? is it really just a story that's as frustratingly simple as the song from which it takes its title?

i know it's not exactly the same but my own version of 'let it be' is 'fuck it'. fuck it and fuck you and fuck them and fuck everything. that's the mantra i repeat to myself when things are going wrong; it's what gets me through the bad days. 'fuck it' has helped me walk away from relationships, it's helped me quit jobs, it's helped me give up on creative projects when they've started to make me fucking miserable due to the fact that they mostly highlight my own absence of talent and ability. it's the same principle as 'let it be'; it's saying i don't give a fuck what happens because shit will happen anyway and sometimes it's not worth worrying about it. except sometimes i wonder, have i made a mistake? would things have worked out if i had worried about it; if i'd stuck around for a bit more or persevered with that thing i was doing? just saying 'fuck it' sometimes feels like an easy way to quit something that's complicated, just like 'let it be' sometimes feels like a way of not dealing with complex things that are happening.

what i'm saying is, do we miss something in letting it be? is it an easy way out of feeling things and dealing with emotions? that's what i keep coming back to with this film. carl expresses a desire to really talk things through with martha; to deal with the issues in their relationship but ultimately this doesn't happen. are we meant to be okay with that? because it made me think that maybe we shouldn't be.

there's a glibness to the attitudes of the characters throughout this film that's frustrating at first. for example, in the scene where death arrives the characters are completely unphased by her appearance despite the fact that she's about to kill their dog. it takes you out of the reality of the story because it's a quirky film character reaction rather than a real life human reaction, except i think there's more reality to it than there first appears. there's a bigger example of this, when in the final moments of the film all three characters are standing around laughing about something really super serious. so it's all fine then. all that stuff that came up is now okay because of a beatles song. except the film doesn't necessarily say that.

for me there was another layer to this and possibly a criticism of the way we deal with complex emotional issues in contemporary society. there's an idea now that talking about issues is good for us so we all talk about issues all the time and don't suppress anything. i can't argue the principle of that, but the part we don't always get right is what we do with those issues once they're out in the open. talking about a problem doesn't necessarily solve it, and the end result can be a society in which everyone is so absorbed in and concerned with their own issues that they don't really listen to anyone else. complex emotional situations are reduced to simple puzzles, like finding the right key to open a door in a video game. at the end of the film there's a great example of this where martha gives carl the closure he needs in one sentence and that appears to make everything okay. but does it make everything okay? really?

and here we are, back to the conflict between the simple and the complex; the difference between early beatles and later beatles. let it be doesn't necessarily provide any answers in this respect but it does allow the viewer to choose between the two. you can take the film as a jolly little fable about letting the bad shit go, or you can look a little further and question whether there is more to it than that. at least that's what i did anyway, so i guess i prefer later beatles after all.

also the performances are all great and mega props to director of photography, ciaran o'brien, because the whole thing looks beautiful. you can see the film right here -

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