Growing up and becoming old is an inevitable part of life. For many people, aging can often be a very confusing and unsettling experience, anc can cause an individual to
ioning their path and meaning in life. The two movies “Liberal Arts,” and “Young Adult” both present stories of adults going back to revisit places and people from their past life. Both films show how the main characters deal with these issues through their interaction with new people and old friends, and how they eventually manage to leae their past behind and move on.
“Young Adult” shows the life of Mavis, a recently divorced woman, who is beggining to write her last book in a serious of books for children. When Mavis randomly finds out that her ex-boyfriend from college – Buddy – is having a baby, she sees this as a sign of fate to go win him back. Mavis’s failing carreer and marriage led her to believe that going back to her past life is the solution, as she remembers her youth is a joyous and lively time, being a popular-prom-queen type.
Regardless of the fact that Buddy is married and having a child, Mavis selfishly tries to seduce him, so she could get what she always dreamed of having when she was in college; a happy family with Buddy. Unfortunately, she discovers that Buddy has no interest in her, and was only playing along in order to please his wife, who felt pity and resentment towards Mavis.
She also finds out the way many of her old friends and classmates felt towards her and her unthoughtful lifestyle. She begins to remember why she left her “narrow-minded” hometown in the first place; to become an accomplished writer in the big city, away from the people she grew up with.
In “Liberal Arts”, there is a very similar turn of events, when Jesse goes to his old college after many years of working in the big city. Like Mavis, he is recently broken-up, and seeking a sign of good things to come. When Jesse is invited to visit his old college, he immediately accepts as he sees this as an opportunity to revisit old memories. Jesse remembers his time in college as a curious and ambitious book-lover, with high hopes and expectations for the future. His nostalgic memories remind him of the fact that his current life is not what he expected it to be, and he can’t help but feel dissapointed and unfulfilled. When Jesse goes back to his college, he meets a girl named Zibby, who is much younger than him and is studying at the college. He runs into her again at a party, and also believes it to be a sign. Zibby reminded Jesse of himself when he was young, and much like him, she really enjoyed reading. But Jesse, who always had a very specific taste in books, constantly mocked her for her choice in reading, as she mostly read mainstream books that everyone enjoys despite the low-level writing. At the same time, Jesse meets a very troubled and unpopular boy, who happens to like many of the same books and authors as him. After this boy’s failed suicide attempt, and a few other conflicts, Jesse realizes that his youth was spent behind books, refusing to see the real world, and not remembering that sometimes it’s important to just have fun. Now that he has matured, he remembers his childhood only for the things that he imagined and read in his books instead of what was really happening around him.
Both these films reveal how people have to deal with the long transition into adulthood. Many people often expect a feeling of accomplishment when they grow old, and become hesitant when that feeling is not there. Many of the characters presented in these movies come to understand that the past is something that cannot be revisited, only remembered, and that accomplishment is not a destination you can reach, but it is measured over a lifetime of efforts and achievements.