Is there a plan for my life? A God-given plan? For everyone’s life? What about chance or the choices I make? How does that--or does that--affect the way my life turns out?
The movie The Adjustment Bureau raises these questions. This sci-fi romance starring Matt Damon and Emily Blunt opened in March and is rated PG-13. Go see this movie. Go with your small group from church. This movie will get you thinking and talking theology.
In the movie, Matt Damon plays David Norris, a promising young politician who loses the election for senator from New York. Before he makes his concession speech, he meets Elise Sellas, played by Emily Blunt, who inspires him so much that he gives the political speech of his career. David is smitten with Elise and wants to see her again.
The mystery begins as David is introduced to the agents of the Adjustment Bureau. These agents carry notebooks with intricately drawn plans corresponding to David’s life and Elise’s lives, with the clear objective of keeping the two of them apart.
It is a simple story line. What is not simple is understanding the purpose of the Adjustment Bureau, the assignment it has, the action it takes on behalf of “the plan” that we hear about from the suit-and-hat-wearing Adjustment Bureau agents.
We learn that these agents are to monitor the world. The one assigned to follow David is named Harry Mitchell. Mitchell messes up and allows David to see the men of the Adjustment Bureau at work, “adjusting” or “recalibrating” a situation so that it goes according to plan. David is let in on their existence with the warning that he must never see Elise again, nor tell anyone about what he has seen or he will be “wiped out." One of the agents, Richardson, tried to explain, “things happen according to plan,” and Elise is not part of the plan for David.
The movie explores the theme of fate and free will as David’s life keeps intersecting with Elise’s life, regardless of the efforts of the Adjustment Bureau.
It’s easy to find conversation-starting questions in film. For example, in real life, there aren’t men in an adjustment bureau running around monitoring the world. Yet, how many times have we heard someone say the phrase “God has a plan for our lives?”
Does that plan have the power to change our minds for us? Are we making decisions or are they made for us?
Mitchell shows compassion for David and speaks with him. David wants to know who is behind all of this. Mitchell said that they call him the Chairman. “You use many other names.” So we can infer the Chairman is the Supreme Being/God/Allah/Great Spirit? The movie had any number of religious and faith allusions, and probably some I missed.
There are other thought-provoking quotes and exchanges. “Sometimes the plan changes your mind for you. We create chance,” Agent Richardson told David. Create chance? I wanted--and needed--to think about that some more I thought to myself as that movie scene swept by.
David asked if Mitchell was an angel and he replied that the term is “case officer.” I prefer thinking that an angel might be watching over me, not a case officer ready to recalibrate my thoughts or adjust me so I stay on plan. I take my cares and concerns to God in prayer, and I take time to listen for guidance and answers in return. I am comfortable with words such as God spoke to me through the Scripture today, or I had a Holy Spirit moment and have made a decision or know what I need to do about a situation that has been troubling me.
In that sense, I seek God’s adjustment for my life openly and often.
David is told that he cannot outrun his fate, that the Chairman has the plan. Toward the end of the movie David said, “All I have are the choices I make.”
Ah. Is that all we have?
You and I make choices every day. Big. Small. Smart. Foolish.
But this movie started me thinking.
I met my husband at a writer’s conference. What if I decided--made the choice--not to attend that conference? What if he hadn’t gone to it either? Was it my choice? His? Are our fates intertwined?
Fate and free will. Questions and discussion.
Would I see The Adjustment Bureau again?
Yes. With my husband and friends the next time.
I can hear the discussion now. It might last long into the night.