The Quarter-life crisis in film


Image: Wikimedia Commons

When it comes to the quarter-life crisis, it can sometimes feel like no-one understands what you’re going through. But maybe that’s not the case. Maybe you yourself saw a quarter-life crisis while you were growing up, and didn’t notice.

You see, according to the most respected of sources (Wikipedia) at least one or two film directors have tried to tackle the topic. Big life shake-ups, emotional climaxes and angst; it’s the stuff of high drama. But who’s really nailed the experience?

Let’s examine the evidence.

Garden State (2004)

Zach Braff’s Andrew Largeman certainly has a few crises in his life, and his job prospects are pretty grim. A return trip to his home town leads Andrew to question his place in the world, and how he lives in it. However, his issues seem more drawn from grief and over-medication – a crisis, but not necessarily a quarter-life one.

Andrew: You know that point in your life when you realize the house you grew up in isn’t really your home anymore? All of a sudden even though you have some place where you put your shit, that idea of home is gone.

QLC rating: 1/5

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

I mean, it’s difficult not to have some sort of emotional crisis when you realise you and Jennifer Lawrence aren’t best friends yet. And her co-star Bradley Cooper’s forced return to his parental home in Silver Linings might ring a few bells for any graduates still looking for work and struggling with a curfew.

Despite this, it’s hard to say there’s exactly a quarter-life crisis in this film. Silver lining – Jennifer Lawrence is still great.

Pat: How old are you?

Tiffany: Old enough to have a marriage end and not wind up in a mental hospital.

QLC rating: 2/5

Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)

“She doesn’t know what she wants – she just knows what she doesn’t want.” Sound familiar? Still, it’s hard to identify with Scarlett Johanssen’s Christina too much, seeing as she basically drops out of an extended ménage-a-trois with Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz from mere apathy. It’s a hard life…

Rebecca Hall’s Vicky is a more interesting prospect. Practical and traditional and engaged to the reliable Doug, Vicky’s actually seems pretty sure what she wants. But when she sees her humdrum future stretched out in front of her, she begins to change her mind…

QLC rating: 3/5

High Fidelity (2000)

“It would be nice to think that since I was 14, times have changed.” John Cusack’s Rob Gordon is a man who never grew up; his girlfriend has grown away from him and he can’t escape the cycles of juvenility that keep screwing up his life. Novelist Nick Hornby has a knack for capturing vaguely adolescent male angst, and this adaptation of his most famous work doesn’t disappoint in that regard.

High Fidelity is about a lot more than the quarter-life crisis of course, but this quote from Rob really sums up a lot of concerns many people have:

I can see now I never really committed to Laura. I always had one foot out the door, and that prevented me from doing a lot of things, like thinking about my future and… I guess it made more sense to commit to nothing, keep my options open. And that’s suicide. By tiny, tiny increments.

QLC rating: 4/5

The Graduate (1967)

The earliest, the greatest and the filmiest, The Graduate tells a timeless tale of not knowing what to do after university. Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman)’s options of a career or graduate school make him anxious, and he becomes seduced into an affair with an older woman. And with the famously ambiguous final shot of an apparently euphoric ending, it’s unclear whether Benjamin ever finds exactly what he’s looking for.

Benjamin: I’m just…

Mr. Braddock: Worried?

Benjamin: Well…

Mr. Braddock: About what?

Benjamin: I guess about my future.

Mr. Braddock: What about it?

Benjamin: I don’t know… I want it to be…

Mr. Braddock: To be what?

Benjamin: [looks at his father] … Different.

QLC rating: 5/5

And finally…

(500) Days of Summer (2009)

Well, why don’t we evaluate it together? Tomorrow at 7pm Film4 is showing (500) Days of Summer and we’re liveblogging it on Storify!

Check back soon for more details.


One thought on “The Quarter-life crisis in film

  1. Pingback: Clueless? | The Graduate Live Blog

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