Would You Turn Back Time If You Could?
I’m usually not a movie person but being sick can really turn things around for you.
I was watching this movie ‘Meet Cute’ (MC) which I was skeptical about, mostly because most romedy movies have the same plot and no twist. But here I was, looking for mindless content that I could maybe doze of to. Since I am not a movie critic, I am not going to rate the movie. But there were themes that came up that managed to keep me on board till the very end. In fact, I got so invested that I went down the rabbit hole of movies that have similar plots (if not the same).
And that, friends, is the story of how I ended up watching ‘When We First Met’(WWFM).
After figuring out that they had the same storyline, I had to promptly stop myself and sleep. I don’t want to necessarily pit one over the other, because like I pointed out before, I am not a movie critic. But they were extremely similar ideas, the only difference being that one was funnier than the other and less gritty.
What stuck with me a lot was the whole time travel thing - wait, is that a plot twist you didn't see coming at all? Well, that is the main plotline for both films, so sorry about the spoiler. I found it uncanny how the main characters in each of those films kept wanting to go back in time. In Meet Cute, it was because she didn't want to move ahead primarily, and then she wanted to turn him into what she was looking for. In WWFM, he kept going back in time so he could do things differently to win the girl of his dreams. However, the resulting feelings that came up were always ones that dealt with regret. Here’s the question that hit me right in the spot: Could going back in time actually be that terrible? Would you go back in time and do things differently?
Since I'm not a romantic person, I relied a lot on the comedic aspects of the movie. I’m going to double down on the anti-romance part of the movies and try to highlight more of the character's thoughts, feelings, opinions and observations. It was interesting how regret and fear were huge themes of both the movies but portrayed very differently.
Let’s start with MC; Kaley Cuoco plays Sheila, who’s the main character. My understanding of the character is that she is kind of jumpy and impatient to start off with and then moves more towards a spectrum of sad, desperate and terrified. Every time she travels back in time, she starts off by killing the old version of herself and filling in that role. This really stood out for me because there was a lot of disgust for the person she used to be - a person who’s primarily unhappy. I think we all can relate to the times when we’re so desperate for change that we literally try to be a completely different version of ourselves - yes, I am referring to the haircut you didn't think through.We’ve all been there, and no one’s judging.
As the movie progresses, there is more sadness, desperation and fear that comes up which deals with her not wanting to see how the following days post the date would turn out to be. And hence, she starts reliving the date for an entire year until she gets fed up. The more she relives it, the more frustrated she gets. And that really comes through with the impatience and her tests to see if he will leave at the end of the night. She takes that desperation (of not being who she was) by going back in time and fixing his trauma. And that ends up turning him into a person she doesn’t even like. I love her level of denial in the movie. What really made the (inner) therapist in me sad was that she went back so many times and not once did she go back and try to address her trauma and sadness - yes, I know it's just a movie, but still.
The idea of fear is more prevalent than regret here. Fear that things will be how they were - even though she repeatedly refuses to move ahead. There is a sense of irony - that things need to change, but also wanting certainty in that change. Her fear of uncertainty makes her want certainty that things will be different after one date. Going back in time to keep manipulating his experiences to match her expectations is something that keeps her in this toxic loop of frustration. Her friend June (the real MVP here, if you ask me) is such an underrated character - brings me back to my previous thoughts in the blog ‘Are romantic relationships overrated’ - it really highlights the theme that romantic relationships are put on a pedestal over any other relationship. Something that her friend June shares about her life is that she has a similar bad relationship with her parents and that she wouldn’t go back and change it (even if she could) because it made her the person she is today - this shows true acceptance regardless of negative stimuli - which is lovely.
That’s a recurring theme that came up in WWFM. There’s a quote that gets thrown around a lot in the film, so I thought I would add it here: “it's okay to be a little messy sometimes.”
Looking at WWFM, I really like Noah’s character played by Adam Devine,mainly because he is quirky, but also pretty funny. Noah is kind of similar to Sheila; they are both impatient, fearful and regretful. But sis character is a bit different as he chooses to keep doing things differently rather than changing the other person. Although, no matter how much he tries - the consequences aren’t what he wants. He inevitably learns to let go of wanting to control his life much like Sheila at the end of MC and just rolls with it. The common theme in both movies is reliving the same moment that they think is significant in order to get a desired outcome (which is actually not desirable). The quote that Carrie says, “ever keep spinning around in the same relationship, over and over, and it's just going nowhere?” basically highlights the whole regrets aspect through reliving the same experience - in real life, we may end up doing it in our heads a lot more since we don't have a tanning bed or photobooth. And similar to MC, Carrie brings up the idea of intangibility of relationships and life - highlighting the aspect of uncertainty and fear that could surround it. “Relationships are all about energy, and attraction, and... intangible things”, which is a stark contrast to what Adam Devine’s character thinks: "Relationships are about intangible things. They're about moments. Real moments, and who you share them with. And the realest moments I've had over the past three years have been with you."
Just some final thoughts, there is some level of unaccepting of self that comes up with both the characters. They both want things to be different - one chooses to change the other and one chooses to do things differently. But the outcome for both are the same - that you can’t change situations to be more accepting - all you can do is embrace life and learn to accept yourself and uncertainty.
On that note, I’m going to leave you all with this last quote, "Fate is a tricky lady. When you try to figure her out, you just get more confused. Listen, all I know is the mistakes I've made, and the ladies I've laid have made me who I am today. If I were to go back and relive it differently, I wouldn't be me. And I like me." (by Andrew Bachelor as Max).
Malvika Lobo, Psychologist