Camera ObscuraCultureSpiegeloog 403: Global

Camera Obscura: A Million Little Pieces

By April 1, 2020 No Comments

Imagine a house party: A living room full of people, loud dance music and flashing lights. In the centre of it all, you see one man dancing as if his life depends on it. He is not bothered by the fact that he is completely naked or that his genitals are moving around freely through the air. He is probably not entirely sure where he is, or what he is doing. According to A Million Little Pieces, this is what drug addiction can do to you.

The man that put up the ‘dance show’ is called James (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). Shortly after showing his dance moves, he decides to go for a cigarette and ends up falling off the balcony. James wakes up on a plane, unaware of where he’s headed and with a patched-up face. It turns out his brother is taking him to a rehabilitation clinic. It’s time for him to face his drug addiction and try to get a grip on his life. 

A Million Little Pieces, based on the identically titled book by James Frey, showcases the difficulties of fighting a drug addiction in a rehabilitation clinic. James has a hard time adjusting to his new environment and state of mind. When he gets frustrated, he lets off of steam by hitting little trees and destroying the furniture of his room. Being only 23 years old, he is by far one of the youngest patients in the clinic. Still, an unlikely friendship blooms between him and older drug addict Leonard (Billy Bob Thornton), who teaches him more life lessons than the clinic ever could. James also gets along well with one of the female patients of the clinic, Lilly (Odessa Young). They fall in love and – going against the rules of the clinic – start secretly meeting up. With a combination of support from kindred spirits, a book with Lao Tse’s philosophy and the strict clinic rules, James tries to heal both his body and soul. 

Although the storyline is not the most original one, director Sam Taylor-Johnson does a good job at keeping the viewers’ attention. He tries to make you experience what James is going through in various ways. For example, the only way to know how much time has passed in the clinic is the graduation of old patients and the coming of new ones. It feels like time is passing really slowly, as if James has been stuck there forever. Interesting effects like mud dripping from the walls also try to give the viewer insights into James’ drugged mind and what his reality looks like. 

Although the patients aren’t exactly the happiest people, they still try to make the best of their time in the clinic and play games with each other, or make jokes. This makes the film a bit more light-hearted. What could have been a very depressing film, is still very enjoyable to watch because of the humour involved. The main message of the film seems to be that even the most broken and sad souls from various backgrounds can help each other to heal and improve their lives. This is also what the title is trying to convey. James has written down all of his drug-related problems and the actions he regrets in his life on a few pieces of paper. Leonard suggests that he should burn the paper to be free of them. The film shows how James burns his regrets and addiction-related memories, resulting in millions of little pieces ascending from the fire into the air. James tries to rise from these ashes like a phoenix and start a new life without drugs or alcohol. 

Directed by: Sam Taylor-Johnson

A Million Little Pieces released 26 March.

(Due to the covid-19 situation, the release may have been delayed or prolonged.)

Imagine a house party: A living room full of people, loud dance music and flashing lights. In the centre of it all, you see one man dancing as if his life depends on it. He is not bothered by the fact that he is completely naked or that his genitals are moving around freely through the air. He is probably not entirely sure where he is, or what he is doing. According to A Million Little Pieces, this is what drug addiction can do to you.

The man that put up the ‘dance show’ is called James (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). Shortly after showing his dance moves, he decides to go for a cigarette and ends up falling off the balcony. James wakes up on a plane, unaware of where he’s headed and with a patched-up face. It turns out his brother is taking him to a rehabilitation clinic. It’s time for him to face his drug addiction and try to get a grip on his life. 

A Million Little Pieces, based on the identically titled book by James Frey, showcases the difficulties of fighting a drug addiction in a rehabilitation clinic. James has a hard time adjusting to his new environment and state of mind. When he gets frustrated, he lets off of steam by hitting little trees and destroying the furniture of his room. Being only 23 years old, he is by far one of the youngest patients in the clinic. Still, an unlikely friendship blooms between him and older drug addict Leonard (Billy Bob Thornton), who teaches him more life lessons than the clinic ever could. James also gets along well with one of the female patients of the clinic, Lilly (Odessa Young). They fall in love and – going against the rules of the clinic – start secretly meeting up. With a combination of support from kindred spirits, a book with Lao Tse’s philosophy and the strict clinic rules, James tries to heal both his body and soul. 

Although the storyline is not the most original one, director Sam Taylor-Johnson does a good job at keeping the viewers’ attention. He tries to make you experience what James is going through in various ways. For example, the only way to know how much time has passed in the clinic is the graduation of old patients and the coming of new ones. It feels like time is passing really slowly, as if James has been stuck there forever. Interesting effects like mud dripping from the walls also try to give the viewer insights into James’ drugged mind and what his reality looks like. 

Although the patients aren’t exactly the happiest people, they still try to make the best of their time in the clinic and play games with each other, or make jokes. This makes the film a bit more light-hearted. What could have been a very depressing film, is still very enjoyable to watch because of the humour involved. The main message of the film seems to be that even the most broken and sad souls from various backgrounds can help each other to heal and improve their lives. This is also what the title is trying to convey. James has written down all of his drug-related problems and the actions he regrets in his life on a few pieces of paper. Leonard suggests that he should burn the paper to be free of them. The film shows how James burns his regrets and addiction-related memories, resulting in millions of little pieces ascending from the fire into the air. James tries to rise from these ashes like a phoenix and start a new life without drugs or alcohol. 

Directed by: Sam Taylor-Johnson

A Million Little Pieces released 26 March.

(Due to the covid-19 situation, the release may have been delayed or prolonged.)

Julius Dullaert

Author Julius Dullaert

Julius Dullaert (1998) is a third year psychology student, interested in Social Psychology and Philosophy. He likes to write about society, memory and music.

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