(This movie is now showing in Hong Kong)
Director: Roger Mitchell
Cast: Ben Affleck, Samuel L Jackson, Toni Collette
Category: IIA (Not Suitable for Children)
Duration: 100 minutes
After the annual mass last month for the Los Angeles-based
association, Catholics in Media, Cardinal Roger Mahoney, who
presided, presented the 2002 award for best film dramatising
values to Changing Lanes. He noted that most of the action
takes place on Good Friday and that the film showed the pain
of human struggle for integrity.
Changing Lanes, with its grim picture of human failings, might
seem an unusual choice for such an award. However, many 'secular'
critics have been favourably impressed by its attempt to dramatise
ethical issues (even though most did not notice or mention
the Good Friday connection). The film is directed by British
Roger Michel (Persuasion, Notting Hill).
The characters are not particularly sympathetic. They show
the 'shadow' side of all of us. Ben Affleck is the upwardly
mobile lawyer who has married the daughter of the boss and
is involved in a case where pressure has been brought to bear
on a senile client so that the firm can manage his estate
as a charity. Samuel L.Jackson is an insurance officer who
is an alcoholic, separated from his wife and children yet
trying to do the right thing by them. On Good Friday morning,
both are hurrying to the courts. The lawyer changes lanes
and they crash.
We live in an era of rage. What begins as road rage escalates
into out and out war as two grown men indulge in meanness
and cruelty under the intense pressure of their personal problems.
The lawyer needs to retrieve documents found by the insurance
man. The insurance man needs a loan to buy a house for his
wife and children.
At the Catholics in Media function, co-writer Michael Tolkin
said that elements of the dialogue were specifically religious.
When the angry and desperate Jackson sits in a bar, he telephones
his AA counsellor (William Hurt) who tells him that 'he has
broken his covenant'. When Affleck passes a Church, he sees
the veneration of the Cross of the Good Friday liturgy. He
goes in and vents his anger and bewilderment to the priest
in the confessional.
The struggles of the two men remind us of our own struggles
to control our animosities and angers. The two men are also
challenged by their wives and other associates to reflect
on who they are, on the integrity that ought to be essential
in our lives. Jackson is described as being addicted to chaos.
Affleck is continually tempted by the law partners to sell
his soul for profit.
Maybe the ending is more optimistic than is justified. On
the other hand, the sufferings of Jesus on Good Friday are
spoken of in terms of reconciliation between us sinners and
a forgiving God. After the passion comes the resurrection.
On a modest scale, this is what happens in Changing Lanes.