Movie Review: The Fountain

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Three stories are intertwined to tell a story about love and death – in Spain during the Spanish Inquisition, a conquistador is sent by his queen to find the Tree of Life; in the modern day, a scientist struggles to find a cure for his dying wife; in the future, a man traverses space to find a dying star.

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Darren Aranofsky, 2006

As you can probably tell from the summary, this isn’t the simplest of movies. It tackles big issues – life, death, love, religion and spirituality – within the three stories. By far the best of these stories, from my point of view, was the modern-day one, in which Hugh Jackman’s Tommy tries to find a cure for brain tumour to save dying wife Izzi (Rachel Weisz). The two actors are in all three time periods, although in the future it’s an apparition or hallucination of Izzi that haunts the future Tom. The future storyline was the most unnecessarily confusing and excessive as far as I’m concerned – Tom floats around in a giant bubble in space which houses what I assume is the Tree of Life, but might also be a tree that was built on Izzi’s grave and somehow houses her spirit, which would explain him kissing it, but not so much him eating it. That whole section comes without context except that he’s trying to get to a dying star that Izzi became interested in because the Mayans thought of it as their underworld, where the dead go. The sequences in the past serve mostly to explain Tom’s continued obsession with living forever (or making it so that Izzi can live forver) when Queen Isabel (Weisz, of course) sends him to find the Tree of Life to save Spain. Somehow. Which has something to do with the Spanish Inquisition. It’s unpleasant, hard to connect with, and ultimately kind of pointless, with a scene at the end that had me almost falling off the couch laughing.

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The performances from Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz are good, but they become excellent in the present day scenes, where their chemistry is flawless and their connection resonates in every scene. Rather than your usual doomed and tragic love story, this one is nuanced and sweet, with the concept of accepting one’s death and coming to terms with dying being forefront in the narrative. While it might not be the prettiest part of the movie, it’s the most interesting and engaging story, Weisz’s spirit and humour playing perfectly off Jackman’s struggle and love for her. Unfortunately we were brought out of it all too often by the interweaving storylines, although it is nice when Tommy gets his do-over moment, spending time with his wife rather than neglecting her to do the work to try to save her. The scene in the bathroom is my favourite of the movie, full of love, affection, and heartbreak over the situation they’re facing.

Otherwise this film is a muddled mess with good intentions; it purposefully takes you out of the moment to try to make you think, but all I did was disengage and become bored. Aranofsky said that this movie is about the idea that dying is okay, and coming to terms with that – my opinion is that there has to be a better way to tell it.

The Fountain on IMDb

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