The concept of eternal recurrence was (arguably) brought to the mainstream in 1993 with the release of Groundhog Day (1993). Certain films such as Run Lola Run (1998) and even an episode from The X-Files, “Monday” (1999), have managed to capture the strange, yet sad, philosophical nature behind repeating a single day. Since then, many variations of the concept began to meld with time travel, adding more distractions from the concept itself, only borrowing the basic premise: Just as space and time are infinite, so are our collective existences (in theory). Life of Significant Soil is closer in relation to the former films mentioned; however, it allows the raw emotion of experiencing a traumatic event to helm the ship.
Drawing a significant amount of inspiration from Milan Kundera’s novel, Unbearable Lightness of Being (another text which foregrounds eternal recurrence), the film concerns the failing relationship of Addison and Conor. As they continue to relive the last day of their relationship, they begin to pick up on the fact that their life is indeed repeating, and they begin to take steps to stop the inevitable from taking place. Even after seeking help from their neighbor Jackie, or Conor’s friend, Hue, they can’t seem to find the correct equation to set their life back on course.
Written and directed by first timer Michael Irish, the film showcases strengths in the writing of subtle humor. The film is not a “comedy”; however, there are incredible moments that either make you smile/chuckle, or silently praise to yourself the intellect of a scene. You can really tell when the person who wrote the script also directs, as choices in editing and cinematography really sync together flawlessly to achieve certain emotions: abrupt edits to create humor, or lingering shots amidst well-written irony to create a poignantly funny moment. This enforces the concept of eternal recurrence: no matter how hard the couple tries to stop the repetition of a new day, they always seem to anticipate waking up in the present, with no hope of a future.
While the film’s humor is a strength, what impressed me the most was Irish’s ability to write engaging characters. Addison (Charlotte Bydwell) is wonderfully flawed. She understands her shortcomings and ultimately knows when to take risks or when to retreat. Conor (Alexis Mouyiaris) I did not like at first. He is genuinely unappealing as a character, as he is written with an incredible number of undesirable traits. However, Irish creates scenarios that allow Conor to reflect on why he is so undesirable, and at many times he succeeds at seeing his flaws. Regardless, Conor is consistently a character you want nothing to do with, yet you still end up rooting for him in the end. It’s this bizarre blending of strong personalities trying to fit a square peg into a round hole that makes the film.
Overall, the film was great. The pacing is a little slow to start, but the camerawork and editing pick up speed after the first ten minutes. It is worth a watch considering it is Irish’s freshman effort, but it might not be one you watch a second time. Perhaps a more unique topic than a breakup story would entice me to watch more than once, but as of now, he can still be proud of his work. Hopefully, we have more character-driven features to look forward to from Irish.