Sometimes we think that our whole life has to be an endless adventure full of adrenaline and that, if it’s not this way, we are wasting our existence. What is the “quintessence” of life? We all want to achieve something in our lives so that as we approach death and reminisce over all our lived years, we can smile in satisfaction and in peace. “ The Secret Life of Walter Mitty ” is an entertaining movie that captures, in great depth and sensitivity, what constitutes the most important part of life.
Walter Mitty works for Life Magazine processing photo negatives, a nearly obsolete job in the modern world. For the magazine’s last hard copy front page- as they prepare to abandon the printed format to appear only in digital- the prestigious and enigmatic photographer Sean O’Connell sends him a negative that captures the “quintessence” of life. Unfortunately, the negative seems to have gotten lost somewhere.
From that moment on, Walter will set out on an adventure to find the negative and discover deep lessons about the most valuable things in life. On the way, he will slowly transform into someone who’s freer and has a greater capacity to value the essence of his work and of his life.
Walter’s and Sean’s personalities couldn’t be more different. Walter works in a dark office and lives a plain existence, afraid of deviating from his routine and of daring to approach the girl of his dreams. But he has an extraordinary imagination and dreams full of adventures he never dares to pursue. Photographer Sean, on the contrary, is not scared of taking risks to capture the most spectacular picture, and his life seems a constant challenge to danger.
Considerations for reflection on the movie:
1. The smallest gear is also necessary for the machine to work
Sometimes we forget that the big performances absolutely depend on small and simple steps. Sean O’Connell knows that without Walter’s job, his pictures would never see the light of day. He admires Walter’s dedication and care for his work, aspects that sometimes Walter himself doesn’t consider. In a materialistic and horizontal society such as ours, it’s hard to see the fruits that love for and dedication to our labors have, and not only for ourselves, but for the greater world around us.
2. We all fear something. That is not the problem…
… The real problem is letting the fear paralyze you. In the search for the lost negative, following the clues that Sean lays out for him, little by little, Walter will defeat many of the chains that trap him. He will jump into the unknown, into adventure, to far away and undiscovered places, facing dangers, traveling now not only in his imagination, but in reality, becoming more and more free.
3. Live in the present (and don’t always look at it through a camera…)
A beautiful scene in the movie takes place when Walter and Sean, finally together, watch a wild and rare feline who’s very hard to catch on camera. The moment is so stunning that Sean decides not to take the picture so that he doesn’t get distracted. How often do we miss the beauty of really living a great moment just to take a picture? It doesn’t only happen with photos, but also with many other activities that distract us from the essential. The spirit is the best lens to capture and treasure the beauty of reality, and it does this like no camera will ever be able to.
4. The “quintessence” of life
[Spoiler alert! – Save this one for after watching!] Walter will finally find the negative, though he won’t see it until it gets published in the last front page of the magazine. What was that picture that captured the essence of life? It’s not a spectacular view, nor a mythical animal impossible to photograph, nor even an action scene that fills us with adrenaline just by watching it. On the contrary, it’s a picture of Walter examining a series of negatives. In other words, a picture that captures him doing his job with complete dedication and passion. What makes life valuable, what makes it into an adventure worthy of living, is not so much the exterior but the content and meaning that we give to our actions. If done with love and dedication, even the simplest of things becomes extraordinary. What fills us with hope, if we think it through, is within every human being’s reach.