There are two types of films: one that touches your heart and the other that changes your perception about many aspects of life and compels you to see it from an entirely (if not disturbingly) different lens; 2008 released Revolutionary Road comes under the latter category. When I saw this film way back in January 2009, I was single and fast forward 2017, still I am yet this Sam Mendes film deconstructs marriage and showcases the dark side of this institution we all are aware but never dared to let it confront us.
Frank and April Wheeler (Leonardo DiCaprio & Kate Winslet – reuniting after their cult Titanic in 1997) starred as good looking couple with lovely two children who live in a suburban Connecticut. They’re idolized and looked upon as the best couple by friends and ecstatic (but deeply envious) neighbors unaware of the fact that there’s absolutely nothing perfect about them. Frank works as sales person in a computer company and he abhors the job whereas April, once an ambitious aspiring actress, abandons her dream to take up the role of a wife and mother.
Sensing emptiness in their lives and admitting the mental claustrophobia they (particular her husband) endure on daily basis, April yearned for a change that could possibly replenish their worldview all over again and to get rid of this repetitive lifestyle, suggested Frank to leave his job and move to Paris permanently.
Initially hesitant but soon he found the decision convincing when April explained him that she can take up a secretary job in Paris to maintain her home and him meanwhile he can pursue his passion and get in touch with his inner talent. Everything went well until Frank is offered a promotion in his company and witnessing the surge of confidence in his colleague’s eyes towards him accepts the offer, thwarting April’s plan and thereon follows is series of grave altercation between the couple in the process that leads to their marriage tear apart forever leaving no scope for redemption.
Based on the novel with the same name written by Richard Yates, what made Revolutionary Road such a difficult film to digest is the manner in which the layers were peeled out one at a time giving us an unexpected sequences we hardly anticipated, the level of altercation between them passed from bad to worst and ultimately damaging with no discourse left. Personally what I took away from the film is the protagonists forgot the essence of self-love, suffered low self-esteem unabling them to break the chains of mediocrity. Both Frank and April never gave their own aspiration an opportunity to grow, never dared to step outside their comfort zone (She did try, not he). They loved each other but never fell in love with themselves in the first place which could’ve added more water to their growing seeds of compatibility.
Frank was observed as a misogynist who developed cold-feet with the idea to let his wife work and live with her financial support but go deep inside you realize he isn’t rather I would say he was part of a system that didn’t allow men to stick to their true selves. Similarly, April was heartbroken whose courageous decision to become a working woman balancing home and helping her better half to choose his own career far far away from the ordinary US countryside to give life and marriage a resounding second chance to rekindle was squandered as a result of him by taking a step back and this realization is what soured the marriage and witnessed April turning into an emotionless woman who no longer harbored any feelings for Frank and he in turn fail to recognize his as well as her undying spirit. From my lens, they weren’t wrong, they were just burden by the humongous expectations set upon them which they could hardly carry out taking toll on their dreams.
Kate Winslet is one of the best actresses of this generation and I couldn’t imagine any other actress playing April with such conviction and mortification as she portrayed it here. With every scene Kate bared her soul with strong vulnerability; the climatic sequence where she indulges into a verbally violent argument with Leo, that led her to flee home shocked me to core because it’s at this heat of the moment they eventually unbottled everything they always wanted to say and it culminated into a situation that cemented their unfavorable destiny. The scene, next day after fight, where she served breakfast to her husband happily as if nothing happened and bid goodbye to him for his office is an exemplary testimony of her acting credentials because she successfully managed to hide her dead spirit behind those vague smile without giving out any hint of her being hurt and the next step she would take.
Leonardo DiCaprio was riveting as Frank Wheeler. An amazing man with a heart to love but someone who just couldn’t gather to courage to be his own we all mostly would resonated with. With a middle class upbringing, he’s supposed to keep his dream to himself and stick to what other men do usually, slog ass in a job they hate the most to receive the salary that helps in financially stabilize home and fulfill family demands. You can sense the frustration he develops over time because he gets stuck between listening his voice (i.e his wife) and trying to match up to the expectations set by his office post promotion making him sick and claustrophobic. Though we find him engaging in war of words with April, he – out of passion and with an intent to reconcile – confront his extra-marital affair so that she could react and make him realize how wrong he was irrespective of her approach.
Revolutionary Road is highly recommended film if you didn’t watch. No, it doesn’t demonize marriage or questions the credibility, it only brought light to the other side we conveniently ignore or sweep it under the rug because we love perfection and anything beyond that is not worth it.