Brand building through storytelling

And baby makes mayhem

Zooey And AdamLast Sunday afternoon as the rest of the world counted down the hours till Oscar time, I strolled across town to an all-but-deserted rep house and let a small, brave movie take me to the loneliest place on earth—the one between a woman and a man who have trusted that love heals all wounds and are forced to see they were mistaken.

There are moments in the life of every married couple when one spouse agrees to accept what the other urgently desires. To stay married is to learn both parts in this dance. But some compromises exact a devastating price. Zooey & Adam, a Canadian movie made for peanuts with a hand-held camera, pulled me inside an extreme marital dilemma and let me watch, squirming, as the anguish unspooled.

Zooey and Adam are rolling and tumbling in bed like two puppies when they first appear on screen. It all looks so playful but in fact they’ve been trying doggedly to conceive their first baby and anxiety is running high. Then on a camping trip, the two are set upon by thugs. One pins Adam down while another rapes Zooey in front of him. She finds herself pregnant with a baby that could be Adam’s or the rapist’s. What to do? “It’s your choice,” says Adam in a blistering scene that will ring painfully true for any woman who has ever heard her husband say what he hopes is the right thing and what she knows in her heart is just the opposite.

Adam thinks—or hopes—that his wife will choose abortion. He can’t imagine why she’d want to raise a child that might well be her violator’s. At first I couldn’t either. I’ve always found it telling that many of those who want to outlaw abortion would make an exception for survivors of rape. Yet I believed in Zooey’s determination to have this baby—her fear that she might not conceive again, her horror of a second abortion (she was pregnant at 18), her defiant recasting of the pregnancy as a willed redemption that demands her husband’s active support if its power is to be unlocked. She’s convinced that she and Adam can create their own reality in which it doesn’t matter whose child she’s carrying. It matters urgently to Adam but again he wants to do the right thing.

Next thing they know, the marriage is imploding. Little Carl—their child as far as Zooey is concerned—is to Adam the devil’s spawn. Carl’s wildness at day care, the kind I remember from my son’s early childhood, hints at a genetic taint that in Adam’s mind becomes a certainty (the movie leaves this question unresolved).

Zooey & Adam has ruffled some feathers. Fearful of anti-choice propaganda, some film festivals have refused to screen it. And even generally admiring reviews have asked why director Sean Garrity pays so much attention to Adam’s point of view. Isn’t the rape Zooey’s tragedy?

It is that, of course, and her emotional evisceration is captured in a stark, chilling shot of her breaking down in a cavernous supermarket, overwhelmed by the rituals of everyday life and beyond her husband’s comfort. He tries to cross the frozen sea of her aloneness, and he can’t. As a long-married person I admire the breadth of Garrity’s vision. He has the guts to probe some implications of “for better, for worse” that until now have gone unexplored, and to confront the ancient roots of modern gender roles. Just as many women continue to worry that they’re not truly women if they can’t have a baby, so a good many men still believe that every man’s first duty is protecting his mate. Adam feels unmanned by the rape and consequently becomes unmoored as Zooey, a survivor in the truest sense, builds a new life without him.

I don’t need art to confirm my understanding of the way things are. I need art to show me what I haven’t considered, to push me onto mental frontiers that expand my perspective. Zooey and Adam pulled this off in 85 minutes and has been on my mind ever since, which makes me wonder why Hollywood heavies think they need more than two hours—not to mention bankable stars and eye-popping special effects—to tell a story I’ll forget within a day. Garrity says on his movie’s website, “Zooey & Adam was shot for nothing. Not the ‘nothing’ that actually means $500,000, but rather, real nothing. Zero. I bought the actors coffees once in a while, and filled my Toyota with gas for the out of town settings. That’s about it.”

Click here to read my previous post “A sad, solemn, necessary thing,” about abortion and a film that horrifyingly portrays the consequences of criminalizing it. 

 

Posted by Rona

Leave a Reply

Stay up-to-date with Rona.

To see what’s on my mind these days, friend me on Facebook.

Miss my old site?

Visit the archive to find your favorite blog posts and Chatelaine editorials or browse my published articles. Sorry, I’m not blogging anymore.