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"The film is one of those insightful cinematic wake-up calls for our times."

 

Raymond Teague is the author of Reel Spirit: A Guide to Movies That
Inspire, Explore and Empower
, from Unity House. 

He is an award-winning
journalist, an editor of spiritual publications, a popular New Thought
speaker, and a lifelong movie buff. 

His book is available by clicking the "Buy the Book" link above or by clicking here.

  Raymond Teague, 
"Reel Spirit" Movie Reviews

Changing Lanes
(2002, 100 minutes, R) 

Many people these days arenít merely asleep at the wheel of life Ė they are hostile or lost at the wheel. Stressed and frustrated with their individual worlds and the world in general, they are dysfunctional drivers who donít know where they are going, or why.

"The world is too much with us," as Wordsworth said long ago. And emphasis on the material, the physical, the money, and maya is driving us crazy.

Changing Lanes is about two men whose lives cross when they are involved in a traffic accident in New York City. Gavin Banek (Ben Affleck) is a Wall Street attorney and Doyle Gipson (Samuel L. Jackson) is an insurance telemarketer. Each is driving to court and each is preoccupied while getting there Ė Gavinís mind is on the high-stakes case before him, and Doyleís is on the custody hearing for his two boys.

The accident, caused when both harried drivers decide to hurriedly switch lanes, begins a tense, mesmerizing, thought-provoking scenario in which both men are led to reexamine their characters, motivations, and actions. Questions arise which they feel compelled to address for the first time: Do they like who they are? Do they want feelings of hostility? How much do they care about others? What is their purpose in life? 

Directed by Roger Michell and written by Chap Taylor and Michael Tolkin, the film is one of those insightful cinematic wake-up calls for our times. That is, the film delivers the message to wake up to the type of people many of us have become and look at how we might need to change -- for our own good and for the good of our fellow humans and the planet.

At its center, the conflict between Gavin and Doyle takes us to the issue of how we treat our fellow humans Ė our spiritual brothers and sisters: Do we treat them with love, as Jesus and other avatars have urged us to do? Do we give them kindness, as the Dalai Lama (the Buddha of compassion) advocates?

Well, no, often we donít, when we are stressed, frustrated and fearful. It is Gavinís preoccupation with his own self-serving aims and insensitivity to Doyle that get the two into their escalating battle. When Doyle, a basically good man who is trying to do the right thing in his life despite alcohol abuse and other problems, asks Gavin for a ride, Gavin refuses and rushes off yelling, "better luck next time."

The script makes it clear that the two menís whole traumatic day could have been different if Gavinís initial response would have been different.

How did their fight begin? Doyle sums it up: "I said give me a lift and you said better luck next time."

Trying to solve a dilemma that his conflict with Doyle has brought into his life, Gavin asks a man, "Is there any other way?"

The man replies, "Sure, call him up and just be nice to him."

So simple a solution, yet so powerful; so easy a solution, yet so time- and energy-saving. And so spiritual Ė meeting confrontations, conflicts, and misunderstandings, whether at home, in the office, or on the street, with love and kindness.

When we donít respond from love and kindness, situations can get out of hand, with each side trying to outdo and out-smart the other. The intelligent script of Changing Lanes doesnít succumb simply to a plot based on revenge and one-upmanship. It gives us a hopeful example that people are, at their essence, good and decent, and that people can indeed be transformed by the renewing of their mind and "wake up" to a better, saner, more peaceful way of approaching and living life.

In the course of their struggle begun by their fateful lane-changing, Gavin and Doyle are given chances to rise above the pettiness and frustrations of their lives and to see and really feel what truly matters in life Ė love, kindness, self-respect, a God-centered awareness that our lives are intertwined and every life deserves respect and compassion.

Both men find meaning in life. Gavin has called the world "a sewer" and "a garbage dump," but he comes to realize his own responsibility to make the world a better place. He also realizes that change is an individual activity and can only come from within. People have "to write their own letters," he says.

Gavinís father-in-law (Sydney Pollack) tells him, "This is all a tightrope. Youíve got to learn how to balance." Gavin has been trying to balance according to a self-serving corporate philosophy, but through his day with Doyle, comes to find a more satisfying balance in loving and altruistically serving others.

Doyle prays, "God, grant me the strength to accept the things I cannot change," but learns that putting others first and loving and honoring their needs can bring wonderful changes into the lives of all concerned.

The style and attitude with which we change lanes and navigate life does matter. It is up to each of us to create a world in which people drive and live together harmoniously, lovingly, and peacefully. As a Unity affirmation states, "Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with Godís love in my heart." Thatís the easiest way to change lanes in life.

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