New Year – New Chapter -“This is Us”… “Life Itself” and “Home Alone”.

New Year—New Chapter―”This is Us”…”Life itself” and “Home Alone”.

Liz Pearl @ PK Press

In January, during the flight across the pond to the UK I plugged in to the AC entertainment centre and quite randomly selected the 2018 released film (eh review) ‒ “Life, Itself”, starring Mandy Patinkin (a favourite of mine since “Yentl” and “Chicago Hope”), Annette Bening (also a fan-favourite) and a slew of other likable and relatable nice-looking characters.  Actually, I had heard of this film as it was written and directed by Dan Fogelman‒the creator of the popular prime-time TV drama series ‒“This is Us”, which I have watched since the season premiere. The parallels are obvious.

This begs the question: why are we drawn to this particular series and newish family melodrama genre? I think perhaps because it touches that sweet spot hinging between made-for-TV and our reality. These flawsome characters are imperfectly real, beautiful and flawed, and they experience the usual ups and downs of real life—just like all of us. The characters feel love and pain and joy and gratitude and sorrow. Relationships are complex, feelings are ambiguous, and the show, like life, is colourful and multifaceted.

The writers tackle a broad scope of tough topics including: racism, stress, conflict, addiction, sobriety, aging, anxiety, depression, sickness, poverty, death, trauma, grief, unemployment, estrangement, infertility, adoption, and body image. These heated issues lend themselves to discussion and varied perspectives. I love the candor, and nuance–sprinkled with lots of laughs and celebrations of career, marriage, parenting, childhood and family life. All this played-out through the lens of ordinary people and everyday life. Life is in fact, bittersweet.

It’s not quite reality TV, but also not quite the traditional family drama of previous decades. I guess every generation reinvents the classic family drama or sitcom on TV and the big screen with new techniques and styles and trending motifs. This is certainly no Brady Bunch or Happy Days or Wonder Years. This is Us, or at least many of us, much of the time.

Back to the film‒“Life Itself” implementing the same creative film editing style as “This is Us”; the storyline jumps back and forth in time, (including many flashback scenes) spanning three generations and two continents. (Yes, popular/traditional family sagas have been around for ages.) This strategic screenwriting format allows us to call upon our own multigenerational experiences and intergenerational relationships as we sift through our (sometimes hazy) memories and explore our own personal narratives. The storyline illustrates the significance of the particular narrative perspective. And I am all about sharing our personal narratives and our family stories. We are reminded again and again, how in retrospect everything fits together albeit through twists and turns along the way. Looking forward however, rarely are we effectively able to predict the trajectory of our life story. (Real life does not offer flash-forward sequencing strategically utilized in screenwriting.) Often, we just don’t know what door will close or window might open as we turn around the next corner. Although we might imagine our future in one way, the unfolding journey is often unforeseeable. Hence, “Life, Itself” is the default navigational system in our serendipitous journey.

In recent years I have navigated the empty-nest stage and the concurrent revolving-door-years. Of course, each new stage with its own particular joys and challenges (previously documented in an earlier blog post).

Most recently, I entered a new unforeseen chapter. Home Alone?! (Definitely a classic family comedy film series.) My husband’s career took a turn demanding extensive overseas travel. It’s all very new and interesting. An unanticipated chapter with perks and adjustments required. Most of us have family histories of immigration and many of us have family stories straddling several countries or continents. This is us, and life itself. The intersections of who, what, where, when, and why, unfold as we continue on our journey.

Just like when I lived alone almost 30 years ago, on lazy evenings I sat on the couch watching prime time cable TV (ER, LA Law and Thirtysomething) with a cup of tea and a bowl of popcorn. Of course there are just a few tweaks in time: watching Netflix on my iPad with SkinnyPop (love the sweet and salty kettle corn) and some ridiculously priced brand-named herbal tea.  Isn’t it amazing how the decades fly? I sit on my couch and think to myself: so, “This is Us”; and this is “Life, Itself”, and I wonder, when is everyone coming home? As much as I enjoy the addictive popcorn and soothing tea, I don’t love “Home Alone”.

The New Year is always a good opportunity to stretch out of our comfort zone. Reflect on the road behind us, check our internal navigation system and ponder the uncertain path ahead as we continue our journey of ‒“Life, Itself”.


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