Synecdoche, New York

Synecdoche, New York ★★★★★

I remember the first—and until tonight the only—time I watched Synecdoche, New York and the way its conclusion left me a hopeless wreck of a man, weeping like I had never wept before. I immediately welcomed it to the exclusive club of my five-star movies, at that time less than 25 in number, but I had no particular desire to see it again for quite some time. Roger Ebert's review has been one of his most widely circulated in the wake of his death, and the ensuing discussion as to his finest work; such is the evocative power of his piece, striking me as I read it over and over, that I felt compelled to revisit the film. Could I really have forgotten just how much it hurt? Saving his best, most complex, most textured screenplay for his own directorial debut, Charlie Kaufman pulls no punches in portraying the relentless bleakness of Caden Cotard's life, and through that all of life. As much as it is an absurdly amusing journey, Synecdoche, New York is also one of the most steadfastly sad films I have ever borne witness to. Its honesty cannot be commended enough as it commits itself to portraying the terrifying meaninglessness of existence, and even the meaninglessness of the efforts—namely art—we make to escape this reality. In the end, we are all the same person, all the same mass of living tissue caught somewhere between birth and death. Eventually we will die, and that will be that. Ultimately nothing means anything, and as terrifying as it is to face that concept, it is simultaneously uplifting to do so. As I sat there at the conclusion, again overwhelmed to the point of tears, I realised I was not sad so much for the emptiness of Caden's life as for that of my own, that of all life. It may bruise the heart as it does so, but Synecdoche, New York shows us that none of us is alone on this pointless journey, that we all at share this boat with every last stranger on every last street. Somehow, that manages to lift my spirits.

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