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The Final Cut - Movie Review

Updated: Jul 9, 2020

As with all movies on this website, our goal is not to provide a complete synopsis of the film, but rather to document how the movie relates to the meaning of life. With that said, be forewarned, there are still spoilers ahead.

The Final Cut is a science fiction movie which was released in 2004, written and directed by Omar Naim, starring Robin Williams as Alan Hakman, and Mira Sorvino as Delila. Williams plays a "cutter," whose job is to take the best memories of a person's life, cram them into a disk, and replay them at a "rememory" during the funeral. You see, in the future, apparently, if your parents sign off on it, everything you see and experience is recorded on a mental implant. So when a person dies, a cutter can reconfigure the best moments, erase the bad, and create an entirely new narrative.

So, what does the movie have to do with the meaning of life? Well, it examines the relationship between memories—not only of the person for which they belong but also to those they do not.

Alan, during his childhood, watched a friend of his die, or so he thought. He didn't tell anyone about the tragedy, and hence, regretted it for the rest of his life. That memory, which would turn about to be a false memory, made him who he was, turned him into a cutter. So hurt but this false memory, he lives life through the memory of others, finds purpose by helping others remember their loved ones not for who they were, but who they wanted them to be.

His girlfriend, Delila at one point, states the following:

You're like a mortician... or a priest... or a taxidermist. All of them. I mean … you get to see life upon life. Most of us get only one, if that. What are people’s lives like? Do they make any sense? It all seems so massive and so random.

Alan doesn't answer the question, but instead, shows Delila a video he made, a video which gives some order, some summary, some summation to some random person who passed away. Alan notes that being a cutter is what he was meant to do. Delila responds that he was also meant to live his own life, implying that life is more than just his work as a cutter, of which, he is obviously obsessed.

Later in the film, Delila would say the following to Alan during a disagreement, … you’ve seen so much life, and somehow you miss the point.

Cutters are not permitted to have implants, but there is also no way to detect if a person has one or not. Alan eventually learns he has one, but he didn't know because his parents died at a very young age, and consequently, were never around to tell him. Another ex-cutter, named Fletcher learns of this, and has Alan killed (sort of), for the information on his implant. During the final scene of the movie, we see Fletcher cutting Alan's memories and saying before the closing screen, It is for the greater good Alan. Your life will mean something. I promise. The irony here is that Alan became a cutter out of regret over a friend who died in front of him, which again, was a false memory. Fletcher had stopped being a cutter over the belief that it was immoral—yet, returns to the practice after having Alan murdered in order to extract the knowledge therein (again, sort of). Fletcher, in some sense, appears to regret what happened, pushing him further into the cutting of Alan's memories, not only for the information but also out of a sense of responsibility, of obligation to remember Alan for who he was, not for what others wanted him to be.

Although the movie doesn't answer the question of meaning specifically, we can likely see the answer in the philosophy. To give life meaning, it must be lived. Moments and memories make up only a fraction of that meaning, but meaning is only found in the continuous strings we weave, the relationships we make—or don't, the lives we impact throughout. Well … except that string may not be so continuous, especially if you consider another movie like Memento, which also examines the question of meaning in life. Memento probably making a stronger case given the extreme example. The ultimate irony and tragedy here of course is Robin Williams taking his own life as a result of Lewy body dementia after creating so many movies with meaning.

Movie rating:

Overall - 5

Meaning of Life Relevance - 6

Uniqueness – 6

If you saw the movie, what did you think?

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