By Jonathan Decker (family therapist, film critic)
Is there a plan for each of our lives? If we need to be in a certain place at a certain time for higher purposes to be fulfilled, does that mean we have no choice in the matter? Who really determines our destiny? These are some of the heady existential questions explored in the new romantic sci-fi/fantasy thriller The Adjustment Bureau, starring Matt Damon (The Bourne Identity, Ocean's Eleven) and Emily Blunt (Young Victoria, Dan in Real Life). In the film, based on a short story by Phillip Dick, a young Senator-elect falls for a ballerina, only to discover that their feelings for each other do not fall in line with the grand plan of a mysterious group of men who seem to control the fate of the entire world. To reveal more would be to spoil the surprises of the story.
Damon and Blunt are terrific; the story depends on their romance and fortunately they've got the chemistry necessary to sell a “love at first site” concept. Though not as mind-blowing or action-packed as Inception or The Matrix, The Adjustment Bureau has its own charms, namely an engrossing love story, narrative unpredictability, and the fascinating philosophical questions it poses. The film's answers are satisfying within its own fictional framework and can provide a springboard for discussion about free will. GRADE: A-
CONTENT ADVISORY: The Adjustment Bureau is far less violent than many thrillers. It has a moderate amount of language, however, including two uses of the f-word. There is also a brief sex scene, a typical PG-13 “kissing in bed filmed from the shoulders up” scene.
MESSAGES TO DISCUSS: How do free will and a Grand Plan co-exist? Are they mutually exclusive? As we make good choices, we are free; as we make bad choices, we become bound. Some may try to keep you from living life as you choose; fight for your freedom
For another high concept sci-fi love story, I highly recommend Gattaca.
Jonathan Decker is the clinical director of Your Family Expert. He is a licensed marriage and family therapist, husband, and father of five. Jonathan earned a masters degree in family therapy from Auburn University as well as a bachelor's degree in clinical psychology from Brigham Young University. He is an actor, author, and television personality.