"Alfie" May Serve As a Well-Needed Wake-Up Call
- Thursday, November 04, 2004
That Alfie is confronted with the vacuity of his actions, without the quick-fix Hollywood panacea of “the perfect relationship,” is truly astounding, and deserves a commendation. Even more astonishing is the fact that Shyer leaves the question open, without implying that the answer is either existential (“We can’t know the answer”), nihilist (“There is no answer”) or humanist (“I am the answer”). He leaves the answer up to us. And that is definitely an art – something we rarely see in cinema these days. It’s a strange package, to be sure, and one that is likely to offend most believers, but there is merit here, buried beneath the filth – especially for those who live and breathe this air.
“I don’t depend on nobody and nobody depends on me. My life is my own,” Alfie says, at the end of the film. “But I don’t have peace of mind. And if you don’t have that, you don’t have nothing. So what’s the answer? That’s what I keep asking myself.” It’s a message that is reminiscent of “Waiting for Godot,” Samuel Beckett’s existential play that begs the question of why we exist, showing us the very core of our narcissism and sinfulness.
“Alfie” also has an interesting message about abortion. When Law’s character goes to pick up one of his many bed partners from the clinic where she has just had an abortion, he asks her how she feels. “Empty,” she replies. Later, we learn that (spoiler ahead) she did not actually abort the child, but the message is still the same: it’s a soul-chilling procedure.
And thus, surprisingly, in the midst of so much smut, we see a Christian message. It’s not the four spiritual laws, to be sure, nor is it a Sunday morning PowerPoint illustration. It is, however, a message that many unbelievers are likely to hear in our relativistic, experiential-based culture. For, as surely as an evangelist prods the malcontent, Alfie invites those who question their own existence to seek truth. As Christians, we know where that truth comes from. But we weren’t born embracing that reality. Unless we were fortunate enough to know Christ as a child, that lesson likely came at the cost of much pain and heartache. “Alfie” portrays just that, making it an excellent conversation piece.
Unfortunately, it also glorifies casual sex by dwelling on Alfie’s encounters far too gratuitously, even throwing in some perversion. That’s not something most need to see, especially in such vivid detail. So for the majority of readers, I advise you to steer clear. But for others – whether those caught up in this perilous addiction, those who mistakenly long for the “glory days,” or those who doubt that men like this really exist, thus making themselves prey – “Alfie” shows us just how alienating, degrading and deadly casual sex ultimately is.
For those seeking a dose of reality, this unlikely film might well be what the Great Physician ordered. After all, His remedies sometimes arrive in very strange packages.
AUDIENCE: Adults only
- Drugs/Alcohol Content: Extreme. Incessant smoking and drinking throughout film.
- Language/Profanity: Approximately 18 obscenities (including 3 f—words) and a half-dozen profanities.
- Sexual Content/Nudity: Extreme. Upper male and female nudity; multiple scenes of implied sexual situations with partial nudity; multiple scenes involving adultery; one sexual situation with multiple partners; two women kiss; multiple direct references to and innuendos about sex and sexuality.
- Violence: Implied abortion.
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