As with all movies on this website, our goal is not to provide a complete synopsis of the movie, but rather to document how the movie relates to the meaning of life. With that said, be forewarned, there are still spoilers below.
Vanilla Sky was directed by Cameron Crowe, starring Tom Cruise, Penélope Cruz, and Cameron Diaz. The movie is an English version, or remake of the 1997 Spanish film Open Your Eyes directed by Alejandro Amenábar, which interestingly also starred Penélope Cruz.
Tom Cruise plays a character named David Aames, who is a publishing "magnate" whose life digresses into disarray when a jealous lover Julie Gianni (Cameron Diaz) goes berserk after seeing him in the apartment of Sofia Serrano (Penélope Cruz). With David in the car, Julie has a psychotic breakdown and drives off an urban cliff— killing herself and severely injuring David. As a result, David must have reconstructive facial surgery.
David returns to his life but continuously fantasizes about Sofia. After some time, he decides to approach her despite his mangled face. At first, she doesn't want anything to do with him, but after she finds him asleep outside on the ground, she welcomes him back into her life. They get back together and live happily for some time. Then David's dream turns into a nightmare when Sofia transforms into Julie. Julie then transforms back into Sofia... the cycle repeats. Consequently, David then has a psychotic breakdown and kills Sofia/Julie. Sitting in jail, David meets a psychologist. At first he doesn't open up to him, but eventually, his story unfolds. In regards to meaning, at one point the psychologist says the following to him:
I once knew a guy who was a real loner. One day he woke up at 40 with two daughters that lit up his life with purpose. And he suddenly goes to endless school plays, and he gets home at 9:20 for the evening discussion, and he... he has the time of his life.
For this unknown loner, family gives his life purpose. Anyway, David and the psychologist later break out of prison and head to a company that specializes in Life Extension. There he meets an employee that explains:
Life Extension or 'L.E.' as we like to refer to it, is a glimpse of the future. It's a ticket. Not in the juvenile sense, but in the deeply meaningful sense that can only be born in the human heart. The DNA codes of the human body have been broken. Soon, heart ailments, cancer, so much more will be a thing of the past. Very simply, your anguish, your discontent, even your death is no longer necessary in a traditional sense. Whatever malady hides behind that mask, it's temporary.
The company promises that people can have a "living dream", people can be anything they want, live however they want with lucid dreaming while being cryogenically frozen. After all, what is any life if not the pursuit of a dream? Shortly after, David realizes that he is actually in a lucid dream and the mirage starts to unravel further. He asks tech support for help, which comes to a rescue. Together, David and tech support go over that he actually died, committed suicide over not being able to win Sofia's heart in real life. That is, Sofia never got back with him, he never killed Sofia, his life has been nothing but a dream. David, with his life in retrospect, notes the following, The little things. There's nothing bigger, is there?
Tech support gives him an option to either: 1) fix the dream and live happily ever after with Sofia, or 2) return to reality 150 years since the time of his death. Like most people, David chooses to return to reality as the thought of happiness in a make-believe world is too much to fathom. Thus concludes the movie.
The scenario is an interesting one... chose to live your life in a lucid dream (virtual reality) or to live in reality. One topic that was not discussed in our recent book review of What's It All About?: Philosophy And The Meaning Of Life by Julian Baggini, is whether or not people would choose to live in the "matrix" if given the chance. Baggini talks about a thought experiment devised by Robert Nozick. Nozick mentally constructs a machine which allows a person to live however they want in a virtual world, and the experience would be indistinguishable from reality, with the exception that the person has complete control over their destiny, happiness, etc. The problem is, most people state they would reject this virtual world. As a result, Baggini goes on to conclude that happiness cannot be the sole purpose of our lives. Otherwise, people would flock to this virtual world to be happy. When given the option of virtual happiness, we reject it, citing that it is not "real".
What Baggini doesn't delve into however is the fact that people philosophically reject the idea of virtual happiness. Yet, in reality, we flock to it. Much of our daily life is spent watching TV, playing games, etc. The latest RPGs allow you to create characters in your own image and to live life however you want. Some individuals spend every waking hour playing these RPGs... even falling asleep at the keyboard only to dream of the virtual life. In addition, the average American spends 5+ hours per day watching TV. The majority of us philosophically reject the notion of virtual happiness, only to embrace it materially through various mediums, e.g. TV, video games, etc. Throughout the movie, David is repeatedly asked by others, "What is happiness for you?" It is a question we must all ask ourselves and it is a question we must ask in relation to what makes our lives meaningful. Happiness without meaning for most of us appears to lead to an internal conflict, an inability to cope with the chilling chasm the conflict leaves in our souls.
Other notable quotes from the movie:
You can do whatever you want with your life, but one day you'll know what love truly is. It's the sour and the sweet. And I know sour, which allows me to appreciate the sweet. - Brian Shelby
I'm real. I'm... I'm... mortality as home entertainment? THIS CANNOT BE THE FUTURE. Can it? CAN IT? - Dr. Curtis McCabe (AI realizes it is not real)
We rate the movie as follows:
Overall - 8
Meaning of Life Relevance - 5
Uniqueness – 7
What did we miss? Would you live in a virtual world if it meant you could be happy? If you like the site, help support us by purchasing Vanilla Sky on Amazon or the original Spanish version Open Your Eyes.