The film, The Adjustment Bureau, operates under the metaphysical idea that “The Chairman” has a life plan for each of us, employing angels who make sure we stay on our pre-ordained track. Even though the film lightly touches on questions of free will, fate and destiny, what is especially noteworthy is it concludes that true love conquers all, and furthermore trumps anything else in life worth living.
David Norris (Matt Damon) is an up-and-coming political hopeful who runs into dancer Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt) on the eve of losing the election for a Senate seat. (We come to find out this chance meeting has been arranged by “up above” to inspire David to deliver a memorable defeat speech). Their fateful encounter has an other-worldly feel to it, a feeling of already knowing the other, which many of us recognize as love at first sight.
As the story progresses, David gets warned off by the angels of the “adjustment bureau” that he needs to stop pursuing a romance with Elise. What is in the cards for David is a chance – a good chance – of eventually winning the Presidency and saving the world (no less), and for Elise, a career with passion, as a world-famous dancer and choreographer. However, we are told that neither of them will have the motivation to achieve their potentials should they develop and continue their relationship.
In the alternate scenario, Elise will end up as a ballet teacher for six-year olds. As for David, fate up until this point has caused the deaths of all his family members, specifically in order that his political motivations stem from a desire not to feel alone and also to live out his father’s aspirations. Together, David and Elise will have enough satisfaction with one another so they will not need to search for anything else in the outside world, nor self-actualize or individuate.
Ultimately, this movie is yet another vehicle for the fantasy of romantic love. The lovers are star-crossed, meant to be, feeding into our hopes that if only we can find our soul mate then we will never feel alone again. This speaks to our desire to regress by merging with another, and furthermore with someone who we don’t even have to get to know. Not only does this reinforce our psychological fantasies, but it amplifies the notion in the Western world that romantic love is the most important aspect of our lives, this despite evidence in reality that this kind of romantic love is not sustainable over time.
Given the choice of saving the world and true love, David chooses love, and not only that, but he convinces the Chairman to rewrite his program, further reinforcing our collective dream that true love can even eclipse and transcend God’s will. A better model of love would be to show that two people could mutually inspire and support each other into being all that they could in the world.
photo credit: neeravbhatt