The best available solution to a wet holiday afternoon – beach lit. turned film: Julia Roberts in Eat, Pray, Love. An adaptation of Elizabeth Gilbert’s tale of how she travelled to Rome, India and Bali after her divorce, it tries to show how she found enlightenment, healing and herself.
And it’s easy to be snooty about it: ageing hippy? self-indulgent and securely-financed American? the story merely a peg for a romantic travelogue? Certainly, the film scenes are gorgeous and opulent, and the and the attention to detail is satisfying. There are moments of raw emotion. It has a happy ending (except that one of the messages is that everything changes …)
I guess what intrigues me is the paradox – a spiritual one – that detachment at its best brings very practical compassion. Liz, the main character, learns detachment in meditation (with a lot of difficulty – and who wouldn’t find it hard, in a mosquito-ridden ashram with loud chanting, arms waving in the air?) The self-obsessed city woman, who couldn’t care less about those around her, ends up organising real help for a fellow-divorcee in Bali.
I’m not sure about the ‘finding yourself’ bit, the spiritual self-hugging. But I did like the sense that ‘crossing over’ – a key phrase in the film – might have an element of redemption in it, as well as transformation.