Why are my husband and I such fans of The Adjustment Bureau? Perhaps because this film tells our story.
It tells every great love story.
The conceit of a mediocre love story is that Fate brings lovers together. That’s just nonsense. Fate tears lovers apart.
The greatest love stories recognize this. Think Orpheus and Eurydice. Think Bonnie and Clyde.
David and Elise, the lovers of The Adjustment Bureau, join the ranks of the exceptional by choosing to give Fate a run for its money.
My husband and I recognize their struggle to stay together against all odds. We live that struggle every day.
The trouble begins with knowing too much.
David (Matt Damon) has the misfortune of peeking behind a curtain he wasn’t supposed to know existed; he witnesses his friend and associates having their minds wiped by the dapper, fedora-donning agents of Fate.
The lead agent, or angel, (John Slattery) is kind or cruel enough to explain to David that these poor saps are being “adjusted” so as not to get in the way of David fulfilling his destiny, which is to ascend politically all the way to the White House. The Presidency would fulfill David’s greatest ambition. There’s just one catch. David can only achieve this goal if he’s apart from Elise.
I, too, have been in the unfortunate position of learning my fate. My informants weren’t wearing fedoras. They were wearing white coats. And no, they weren’t angels. The first was a neurologist, who told me I had multiple sclerosis, which meant my central nervous system was self-destructing, and would most likely continue to do so until the day that I died. Bad news, huh? The second informant had worse news. She was my gynecologist. It was her opinion that I ought not have a child.
Just as David refuses to accept a fate without Elise in The Adjustment Bureau, I refused to accept a fate without a child.
David says to his lover, “I need you to trust me.”
I said to my husband, “I need to have a baby.”
I’m not going to spoil your enjoyment of The Adjustment Bureau by giving away Elise’s response to David’s plea.
I’ll just tell you how my husband responded to mine. He agreed to fathering our child, in full knowledge of my inevitable decline.
The lead agent urges David to abandon Elise. “If you truly love her, just walk away. If you choose to stay with her, it not only kills your dreams, it kills hers, too.”
I won’t tell you if David abandons Elise. I trust you can infer my husband did not abandon me. Like David, my husband faced the prospect of giving up his greatest ambition for love. My husband always wanted to become a professional writer. He has a talent for writing stories that reveal his literary influences, which include Samuel Beckett and Philip K. Dick, the author of the short story on which The Adjustment Bureau is based. My husband’s stories are not necessarily the sort that would attract great riches or great fame, but rather the sort that would attract a small fan base of passionate, uber-nerdy intellectuals. In other words, he has the sort of talent that wouldn’t necessarily pay the rent, and much less the health insurance. With a disabled wife, and a baby on the way, my husband chose to defer the dream of becoming a cult fiction writer, and embrace the reality of a steady job.
Did that mean he gave up?
We’ve never given up.
I’ve never given up defying the prognosis. I eventually found myself another neurologist, in another white coat, and she introduced me to a drug which appears to have halted any further decline. The child my gynecologist told me I’d be too disabled to raise is turning out to be healthy and strong. He’s fifteen now. Before we know it, he’ll be a grown man, out on his own. Once he’s grown, my husband might just find the time to write those crazy short stories again. With the life we’ve lived, his stories are bound to sound a little like Philip K. Dick. And more than a little like Beckett.
We can’t go on. We’ll go on.