Fearless, Peter Weir (1993)

Lots of folks will tell you Peter Weir’s Picnic Hanging Rock and The Last Wave are great movies, but I think people overlook some of his more recent ones like The Mosquito Coast and Fearless, which are also, I think, extraordinary, if not brilliant.

In Fearless, Jeff Bridges and the utterly adorable Rosie Perez both turn in amazing performances as survivors of a plane crash. The disaster forces an existential crisis upon each of them, and they each respond in ways that make perfect sense but which are precisely contradictory: Bridges becomes pathologically fearless, and Perez pathologically fearful. Inevitably, they’re drawn to each other like matter to antimatter. Also inevitably, they each discover that neither extreme — the one chosen or the one rejected — is sustainable in real life.

I think what I love about this movie — I’ve seen it many times, and it sticks with me for days afterward every time — is that it tempts me to read it as a exhortation to carpe diem, and then it tempts me to read it as an invitation to nihilism, and then it shows me how absurd both those stances are, and then it ends.