Garden State: A Film About Life

***This post contains spoilers***

The film Garden State in my opinion comes pretty close to life changing. I’ve watched it many times, and each time, I have realized something different. There are so many topics and issues this film touches upon: love, depression, anxiety, death, tragedy, relationships with parents and friends, finding who you are. I watched it again recently and focused more on the main character’s personality. He is quite a mystery in the beginning because he is so closed off from the rest of the world. I came to the conclusion that the reason that he is like this is because of his relationship with his parents. Then I realized that our own relationships with our parents can really influence our attitudes, our opinions, and our relationships with other people.

The movie focuses on Andrew Largeman (Zach Braff) who seems to be merely floating through life, sort of in his own world and disconnected. His face shows a very absent expression, and his eyes are unemotional and vacant. When he finds out that his paraplegic mother has drowned in the bathtub, his blank facial expression does not change. This is because he has been heavily medicated with antidepressants and anti- anxiety drugs since he was a little boy, which his father, who is also his psychiatrist, prescribed to him. He decides to stop taking his drugs because he wants to “take a little vacation.” The film follows Andrew as he thinks back on all the relationships and experiences he’s ever had in his life. He reconnects with old friends, talks to his dad after a decade of not communicating with him, and falls in love. He decides that he needs to find who he really is because for most his life, he has been completely numb.

Andrew has been this way because his father has blamed him for his mother’s paralysis, and therefore, he has blamed himself. When he was little, he had pushed her. She fell over onto the dishwasher that had fallen open leaving her in a wheelchair for the rest of her life. His father put him on the meds, and ever since then he has never known what it is like to really feel something. In one scene Andrew and his father try to fix their relationship. His father says that it’s possible for them to be OK if he can forgive himself for what he did. Andrew responds by saying that he was a little boy and “somebody made a shitty latch.” He finally realizes that what happened was a terrible accident and was never really his fault. All his life, his father tried to control his feelings. He tells his father that he will not take his meds anymore because he is sick of feeling numb to everything he experiences, and he finally sets himself free.

“What I want more than anything in the world is for it to be okay with you for me to feel something again. Even if it’s pain.”

Andrew goes through a transformation. At his mother’s funeral, he has that blank emotionless stare. By the end of the film, he has let a tear fall, laughed and smiled, said more than “yeah” or “no,” and fallen in love. In the past, he was never able to do these things because he punished himself for what happened to his mother. He finally accepts the fact that in order to find himself and who he is, he has to let himself feel something real, even if that feeling is pain.

Our relationships with our parents are one of our biggest influences, whether they are overbearing, barely there, or even never there. But despite the nature of these relationships, it truly shapes how we think of ourselves and of others, how we act towards others, and our relationships with other people whether it is romantic or friendly. Because Andrew’s father told him that it was his fault that his mother was paralyzed, he blamed himself for how sad and screwed up his life was. Even after he had moved away from home, his father still prescribed him these meds to control his emotions and anxieties. As children, we believe everything our parents tell us. But as we grow older, we must figure out certain things for ourselves. We need to feel happiness, pain, love, and sadness. Once we reach a certain age, our parents cannot control how we feel. They teach us certain ideas, lessons, and values, and once we are ready, they let us out into the world to explore who we really are as individuals.

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