Learning from Kodachrome

Ed Harris, Jason Sudekis and Elizabeth Olsen in Kodachrome

I’ve been stuck inside for 25 days. Twenty five days ago my brother came down with Covid. Part of a third wave that three months ago, we assumed vaccines would nip in the bud. 2 days after that I had it too, maybe because I picked him up from the train station, maybe because two nights earlier we watched a particularly surreal episode of Rick and Morty about giant sentient sperm together. I like to think its the latter option, just because that makes a better anecdote to tell people when I get asked the inevitable question of if I ever had Covid or not.

Days later another family member got it, then another a few days after that. Finally my mother got it just a few days ago. It’s been rough for everyone, my brother for thinking he had a say in what some humourless, remorseless virus does or my parents, both double vaccinated and sick as dogs regardless. I’m sure unfortunately it has been worse for others. This last 16 months has been brutal and its not over yet. However I think what I managed to avoid, at least temporarily, in all this time is the psychological effects, the stuff you read about but don’t really understand until it happens to you. The stuff happening in secret behind closed doors.

Last night I watched a movie. I hadn’t done that in a while, something I wouldn’t have expected of myself even when I was sick, sweating, coughing and all that good stuff. I still watched something in the background to at least forget for a moment that I had Covid during a heatwave and I was gasping alone while ostracised from others, shut behind my bedroom door, trying to protect others from something I had, for all the good that did. Lately movies have been the last thing on my mind. Instead I’ve wanted to sit in my thoughts, mulling over the directionless nature of this whole situation. Be it the pandemic, my life, career, friendships and everything in between. Let me tell you, self pity is a barrel of laughs.

Isolation doesn’t just rob you of time and the ability to enjoy simple pleasures, it robs you of drive, of purpose, as it locks you in place for a minimum of ten long days, maybe for some, even longer. It sounds like a short period of time a week and a half when stacked up against a year and a half. However when you are presented with yourself as the entertainment its impossible not to pick yourself apart. Imagine watching your favourite film, reading your favourite book, listening to your favourite song on repeat for ten days straight. Would you still love it or would you have picked out every little flaw you could possibly find? Personally, it would drive me crazy but then again maybe I am, I really don’t know at this point. As I’m writing this I still have three days left to go. Last night though, something changed, I watched a film.

I don’t know why the gods of the Netflix algorithm pointed me towards it, especially considering most of my recommended watches are K-Dramas, an obsession I have developed since watching the sublimely romantic, Something In The Rain. But no, the gods pointed me towards 2018’s Kodachrome, a road movie about an estranged father and son driving across country to develop some long forgotten about photos at the only place in North America that still develops Kodachrome shots. At first glance it has absolutely nothing to do with a global pandemic, isolation or even the madness that all this has brought about. This might sound like a really roundabout way of starting a very rambling review of a film released years ago but I promise its not. Despite being a delightfully funny, melancholy and romantic movie it turns out Kodachrome is more relevant now that it was back in 2018.

You see, it might not be about a pandemic but it has plenty to say about isolation, about loneliness and self ostracisation. It even speaks to the concept of feeling stuck, stuck with only yourself to look back on and question. Of all the films I have seen since the beginning of this pandemic, this is the first one to not just be changed by it but to actively change me. In the last 25 days I’ve run the gamut of emotions from sadness to anger, all the way to the bottom of a place I do not recommend. The last few days have offered at least a view of a way out but it wasn’t until I saw Mark Raso’s film did I have a half decent handle on a feeling of regret that is so engrained in my experience and Kodachrome itself.

Be it Ed Harris’s Ben’s own self loathing of a life well lived at the expense of those around him or Jason Sudekis’ Matt being presented with a window into a future he doesn’t want anything to do with but seems powerless to avoid. Both are frozen in place by their pasts and an inability to look forward. As metaphors for the psychological effects of lockdown its pretty spot on, at least to me. It was impossible not to feel motionless during lockdown even when I wasn’t in self isolation as I tried to keep busy with no clue of the outcome of anything I was doing. I think what I realised from Kodachrome is that, isn’t that the point of living, even if we weren’t hiding in our homes and made to feel awkward and afraid of just the smallest social contact, we would all still be moving forward, unsure of the outcome.

Being stuck and being forced to come to terms with yourself is frightening, especially is you don’t know who the hell you are, but if you can look past the past. Past the flaws you’ve analysed and overanalysed, there is certainly something good there. A life worthy of remembering and for me that is what Kodachrome was all about, what it showed me. I think the point I’m trying to make, buried beneath my long winded story is that the real enemy of this whole situation, amid all the uncertainty and pain is the hidden effects. Be it the loneliness, self doubt or anxiety it has brought about in all of us, not just me. It’ll probably take more than a good movie to heal over what this section of our lives has broken, I’m not saying its easy, but I think we can all learn something from it too. Even if that something is that nothing good can come from watching anything to do with sentient sperm.


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