The classic of American literature Nathaniel Hawthorne told his readers a message from a newspaper chronicle about a certain Mr. Wakefield, who decided to play a prank on his wife. A resident of London once left – and did not return, having spent twenty years in deliberate alienation, living next door to his own home.
A century later, another classic of American literature, Edgar Doctorow, brought Mr. Wakefield to the modern world. In 2016, through the efforts of director and screenwriter Robin Swicord, “City Robinson” appeared on the screen.
The raccoon is not to blame
The raccoon in the title of the film exists only in the imagination of Russian distributors. Its real name is no different from the title of Hawthorne’s short story and Doctorow’s story – “Wakefield”. All the fault of the poor animal is that it caught the eye of the protagonist at the wrong time and forced him to climb into the attic of the garage.
One event hooked on another, and now the Honorable Mr. Wakefield slumbers in an old armchair by the attic window – instead of enjoying a restful sleep on the matrimonial bed.
Unlike the historical prototype, the movie hero did not plan his departure. Dissatisfaction with oneself, old grievances, jealousy, fatigue – all that is now commonly called the “midlife crisis” – filled the consciousness of a successful lawyer with unbearable bitterness. It seemed funny to him to sit in the attic for a while and wait how his family would behave in the absence of the head – especially since the windows of his home were in front of him, at a glance.
Turning off the light, a sudden delay on the way, unwillingness to explain things with his wife suddenly became one. External reasons were superimposed on internal ones, and Mr. Wakefield decided to “disappear”.
A world without a hero
What will it be like – this familiar world when we leave it? How will our family and friends behave? We can say that the main character of the film decided to stage a rather cruel and sinister experiment. He does not believe his wife, suspecting her of intrigues; he hates his mother-in-law; he lost touch with teenage children. And now he wants to know how his absence will affect the life of the family.
The answer turns out to be even more cruel than the “experience” itself: practically nothing. It turns out that the “head” actually did not occupy a leading position. This has a bitter meaning: in our age, a man has lost his dominant position in society. Children would have perceived the loss of their mother more acutely; they hardly notice the loss of their father.
Mr. Wakefield’s wife grieves and even sheds tears a couple of times, but on the whole “the detachment did not notice the loss of a soldier,” and the family did not react in any way to the loss of a man who considered himself its center, base and breadwinner. Four women were able to do without a single man in the house.
Why did Mr. Wakefield become a voluntary exile?
Watching the life of the family became a painful distraction for the hero. Anger and resentment eat him up from the inside. He is waiting for his worst fears to come true, to breathe a sigh of relief and declare: “Well, I was right! I’m not to blame for everything! ” But time passes, and the wife is in no hurry to prove her deceit.
Mr. Wakefield did not stay in the attic because he wanted to understand something in himself and to deal with his life. He “dissected” not himself, but his spouse. He thought he knew everything about her, understood everything and was able to predict all her steps. Reality drove him to a dead end.
He is not afraid to return – on the contrary, he is happy to imagine the reaction of his family to his return, bursting into loud and malevolent laughter. He stops washing and shaving, eats from the trash heap, turns into a terrible bum, sinking deeper and deeper into the abyss of the “opportunism” of his former respectability.
And only over time, the truth is revealed to him – he is to blame for everything in his life. He does not believe his wife only because he stole her away from a close friend and rival by deception. His feelings for his wife are more “master’s” than sincere. He does not know how to love – that is why children do not love him. Selfishness turned him into an outcast; he did not punish those close to him, but himself.
Having received a lesson of selfless love and kindness from pure-hearted adolescents living with a doctor-neighbor, Mr. Wakefield begins to “thaw out” and think of himself not as “the center of the Universe”, but as its integral part. The fact that loved ones so quickly came to terms with his loss no longer makes him angry or amused, but frightens. Realizing that he is one step away from the complete loss of the last chance to return his wife, the “attic bum” decides on the reverse transformation.
The meaning of the ending of the film
Mr. Wakefield does not evoke sympathy, but the temptation to look at life “from the outside” is understandable. Despite the incredible and anecdotal nature of the situation, there are not so many options for resolving it – will he be able to return what he rejected, obeying a momentary whim, or not?
Will Wakefield be able to overcome his selfishness to the end, how sincere is his remorse – all these questions remain behind the scenes. As well as what he will hear from his wife, who has already come to terms with his loss and has learned the taste of life without nagging, jealousy and petty quarrels.