From The Wrestler to All Is Lost. I thought: Aronovsky must have liked this film because they share one very strong similarity: in both films, things start badly for the protagonist and get worse. And worse. And worse.
Perhaps no other film throws its character into a crisis as quickly. In All Is Lost the crisis is as immediate as in The Metamorphosis. “As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning” he found himself in trouble. Well, as Robert Redford awoke on his yacht, he found himself in some trouble too. A giant cargo container, adrift at sea, had cut into the side of his boat and water was sloshing in.
All Is Lost isn’t about the good old triumph of the human spirit. No, it shows a man trying his best, again and again, to overcome the situation he finds himself in. He gives it a good go.
But when thing keep going from bad to worse, as they do most of the time in The Wrestler, the emotional impact is lessened each time, until, at a certain point, you think: “with a small flick of a switch, this could be a Charlie Chaplin comedy.” And you can see exactly how Chaplin would only need to tweak things just a little to get the laughs.
Redford is magnificent. His beautiful voice narrates the opening lines, a letter to the man’s children probably, written in knock-off Hemingway, and then we hear almost nothing more from him for the rest of the film. If the whole purpose of making the film was to capture Redford forever, Redford in his late Seventies, then everyone who helped it to get made did the right thing.
But the fact remains that, despite Redford, you wouldn’t recommend it to your friends. Why? Silent movies work. Look at The Artist. Yes, but look at Into Great Silence too. See how much of that you can take. That’s silence and beauty – and still you’ll be leaving early. All Is Lost is silence and ever decreasing chances of survival. And that’s why most people won’t watch it.