Prove Yourself: 10 Cloverfield Lane & Eddie The EaglePosted: April 10, 2016
The first few months of this year have been… hectic for me, to say the least. I left my job, wound up back at my previous job, struggled to nail down health insurance and unemployment and found out my cat is very sick. And through all of that I was attempting to complete several creative writing endeavors, launch a podcast and maintain this blog. It’s been stressful, upsetting and difficult to say the least. Thankfully there have been plenty of good movies (and comics and books and TV shows) to provide at least some relief from the perpetual panic. But two films in particular– 10 Cloverfield Lane and Eddie The Eagle— did more than distract me. Rather, these films inspired me and uplifted me in the exact way that I needed. So it’s not surprising these have been my two favorite movies of the year so far.
First let’s recap these two films, as it’s been a few weeks since they were released (and because based on box office tallies there’s a good chance none of you saw either of them). Eddie The Eagle tells the story of Eddie Edwards, a klutzy-but-enthusiastic young Briton who strives to be England’s first Olympic ski jumper with the help of disgraced American medalist Bronson Peary. And 10 Cloverfield Lane follows a young woman named Michelle who gets into a car accident only to wake up in an underground bunker with men named Howard and Emmett and be told that some sort of disaster has occurred and they cannot afford to leave. While these two films couldn’t be more different in terms of genre, tone and style, their similar themes and inspiring protagonists have linked them firmly in my mind.
In both Eddie and Michelle, we have characters who continue to persevere and fight for the independence to act on their own terms, regardless what external forces dictate. They pursue this shared goal with very different methods and attitudes. Eddie is marked by an implacable positivity and optimism that sucks people up in his wake and encourages them to believe in Eddie as much as he believes in himself. And Michelle is driven by a grim, primal combativeness and instinctive ingenuity to escape this impromptu prison and face the supposed cataclysm outside on her own terms. The two are very different characters that are unified by a shared pluck and dogged determination that can’t help but resonate and inspire.
The resulting character arcs are very straightforward and predictable, but no less satisfying. Rather, they are effortlessly relatable, each in their own way capturing and celebrating the simple satisfaction and dignity of fighting to define yourself in the face of opposition both external and internal. Whether they are facing down pompous and dismissive committee members or unhinged and controlling survivalists (or in their darkest and most private moments, their own self-doubt and fear), both Michelle and Eddie refuse to be held down and continue to persevere when the going gets tough… as we all should. And these emotive and relatable journeys are helped greatly by the compelling performances of Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Taron Egerton, who both fully inhabit these characters to great effect.
Of course, what makes these underdog stories really pop– and what marks them as textbook examples of good storytelling– is the nuance of their respective catharses. Neither film allows its message to be reduced to “These guys never gave up, and neither should you!” Instead, they use that surface-level goal/reward as a gateway to more specific (and for me right now, more resonant) messages. In Eddie The Eagle, the eponymous athlete comes to realize that his single-minded pursuit of becoming an Olympian doesn’t mean anything if he doesn’t take it seriously; in truth it isn’t enough that he just competes, but that he make every effort to really succeed. And in 10 Cloverfield Lane, Michelle’s fight for survival reverses her personal impulse to flee conflict and instead face the challenges of life head-on.
Now obviously neither of those deeper lessons are particularly unique or surprising. But they are the lessons I needed right now, delivered in exactly the right way to strike a chord with me as a viewer. As I continue to try and reorient my life in the right direction, the examples of Eddie and Michelle need to stay in the forefront of my mind. Like Michelle, I have to learn to keep fighting and not just run away from my problems or accept the simplest possible solution for them. And like Eddie, I have to take my opportunities seriously and make the most of them instead of just being content with the most surface-level suggestion of accomplishment.
And through all of this emotional pontification, both films never lose their ability to be entertaining and fun. While 10 Cloverfield Lane is obviously darker and more intense and Eddie The Eagle is more goofy and good-humored, both films are fully engrossing and exciting just on the story level, which goes a long way towards leaving these thematic impressions on an audience. And this– the idea that you can fight for your autonomy and self-determination and still be fun at the same time– is also a lesson I need to keep in mind over the next few months, if not longer. My life is going to continue being a rocky road for a while, whether I like it or not, and thanks to these movies I’m reminded that I cannot let those circumstances defeat me… and that I can still afford to have a good time along the way.