If you’re a movie goer, you probably read the synopses of new films that appear on various websites. One I read for the film adaptation of Chad Kultgen’s novel “Men, Women, & Children” says that it’s about “how the internet and social media have change our lives.” In fact, it’s more about how these things really haven’t changed much, outside the conduits through which human emotion flows.
The picture begins with the Voyager spacecraft, and its cargo of humanity’s artifacts, leaving the solar system, as it in fact did recently, with narration from Emma Thompson. Shots of the craft & the narration return throughout ,as several interleaved stories of love, loss, and growing up unfold. All are poignant, well-written, and well-acted, with Adam Sandler proving that his performance in “Punch Drunk Love” was no fluke. There are laughs in the movie, which may or may not save it from being preachy or heavy-handed.
The movie’s main problem may be overkill. Director Jason Reitman has visited the issue of loneliness and isolation in modernity before, especially in “Up in the Air.” But that picture was stark, minimalist, and focused in a way that made you feel the Clooney character’s pain. “Men, Women, & Children,”on the other hand is global, and has an on-screen population to match. It occurs that the concept would have made a far better HBO mini-series where all the personalities and plotlines could have been fleshed out, and the issue explored with more nuance. Movies that set out to explore the human condition set lofty goals for themselves.
“Men, Women, & Children” falls short of classics like “American Beauty” or efforts like “Cloud Atlas,” but it’s engaging and the ending manages to be both reassuring and apprehensive at the same time.