All is Lost is a movie about one man, a boat, and the sea. Its story, though, revolves not so much around the concept of man’s survival against all odds but rather around the concept and reality of giving up.
The Everyman (we never know his name or the circumstances surrounding his voyage) awakens to find his boat punctured by a random cargo container floating in the ocean, and from then until the end, he finds himself in a fight for his life against the odds of nature. We are tempted, throughout the movie, to turn the film into a commentary on man’s perseverance and unwillingness to die, and certainly, the Everyman takes a long time to give up. The plot, however, does not allow us to journey into the realm of the “can-do” spirit. Our hero looses his boat in an epic battle with a storm and confines himself to a life raft while trying to make it back to what seems to be some sort of shipping lane in the Indian Ocean. This is really our first view into the film’s movement. As our Everyman slips into his raft, he watches on as his beloved vessel sinks beneath the calm surface of the water. He lets it go, but not really by choice. He is then bombarded by yet another storm, stalked by sharks (of course), passed by completely unnoticed by numerous cargo vessels, and runs out of clean drinking water. Our hero, in another moment of losing, writes his “goodbye letter”, describing that he “did all he could”. With his letter sealed in a mason jar, he tosses it (and some of the last bits of his resolve) out into the sea. Awakened one night, by chance it seems, he spots a light in the distance, and, in a last-ditch effort to live, he sets his entire raft on fire to signal the ship. He gives up his last bit of stability to signal for help, diving into the sea as his rubber savior goes up in a roar. He lets it all go. In this moment, his final “best” included torching his only piece of survival. As he treads water in the black of night, with no sign of rescue, he releases the last shreds of hope tucked away inside and allows himself to be tugged down into the deep, giving up on life as it could be grasped by his own strength.
This is certainly no spoiler (and you should see the movie), but what a beautiful tune that we don’t want to hear. We are always so enamored with the fight against all odds that turns out in man’s overwhelming victory; we praise the one who hunkers down and wins against every odd. And yet in our obsession with man’s perceived strength, we often fail to realize that there is a certain truth often missing in Humanity’s Hall of Fame: the truth of losing. Humans don’t like to talk about losing, because losing means that we have failed to do it ourselves. And yet, as Jesus reminds us, “Whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. And whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it,” (Matthew 10:38-39). Christianity is, above all things, a story of victory, and yet the road to that victory does not involve human ingenuity, resolve or strength; it involves drastic loss. Jesus invites us to lose so that we may gain everything, so that we may gain him. We humans are so busy trying to save ourselves. We put our trust and hope in our hard work, our sharp looks, our friends, our economic status, and a hundred other things trying to find a measure of true life. We are frantically searching in our gym memberships, in illicit pictures, in the opinions of others for the safety and sufficiency of meaning that constantly eludes us. Jesus stands patiently by, begging us to torch our last remains of hope in ourselves, to set ablaze the makeshift life rafts we are all desperately trying to keep afloat. He asks us to stop our spiritual swimming and let gravity pull us under the dark waves. He asks us to give up so that we can really win. As He paved the way to life by His death, He asks us to join in His resurrected life by allowing our natural selves to be put to death.
Jesus asks us to resolve to lose, to place our trust completely in Him. Only in Him will we have true life, and life in Him is certain and true.
Will we torch our selfish desires, our prideful hopes and dreams, our attempts to find life apart from Him?
All must be truly lost if anything is to be truly found.