Love’s Dependance on the Ability to Choose

*Contains  spoilers for the film Don’t Worry Darling

Don’t Worry Darling has been the subject of much film buzz this year. Initially, the hype stemmed from the cast (including Florence Pugh, Chris Pine, and Harry Styles) and from being the sophomore directorial outing from Olivia Wilde (Booksmart, 2019). However, the leaked and subsequently displayed drama between the cast of Don’t Worry Darling has elevated this movie to a unique status in the pop culture spotlight (Harry Styles allegedly spitting on Chris Pine as a prime example). Everything surrounding this film has brought the cultural hype to a simmer. The film blends elements from The Truman Show and The Matrix, but ultimately is lackluster in its delivery. In spite of all this, the movie still presents some interesting ideas to investigate, especially in the realm of autonomy and love.

Dreamy Nightmares
Don’t Worry Darling is set in an ideal 1950s town of Victory with Californian palm trees highlighting the streets and the houses exuding bright colors. Alice lives comfortably in her happy marriage with Harry Styles’ Jack. They are still in a honeymoon-level of love with one another. All the men of Victory leave for work for the day and the wives stay home and cook, clean, and gossip. However, through a series of strange, nightmarish events—from the suicide of one of her friends to her jarring hallucinations—Alice begins to discover that her life may not be as idyllic as she once thought. She finds out that she is in fact in a simulation and a prisoner to her husband. Jack was inducted into a cult that would allow husbands to forcibly keep their wives happy and at home, while they are the sole provider.

Despite her circumstances, the love Alice has for Jack is always presented as genuine and caring. The idea of her husband and the life they’ve led while in Victory tempts her to stay, in spite of it being abusive. Even Jack’s love, while clearly toxic, feels complicated and nuanced. However, near the film’s climax, Jack gives a monologue about how Alice is happy in spite of not having the ability to choose.

Love and Choice
Can happiness truly be brought about without freedom of the will? Without choice, can a person be said to genuinely love someone else?

After creating the universe in the beginning of the biblical story, God calls it very good (Genesis 1:31). Interestingly, the tree of knowledge of good and evil is a part of that creation and is also considered very good. However, Adam is given the strict command to not eat from this tree (Genesis 2:16-17). Why would God place something in the garden if its purpose is to be a restriction? Arguably its existence was for Adam and Eve to be able to choose love. Their love would mean little if they couldn’t also choose not to love their Creator, which tragically was what they chose (Genesis 3).

This is not to debate where the lines are in predestination and free will, but rather to point out that in order to love one must have the freedom to choose. This is similar to the idea that C.S. Lewis asserts in The Problem of Pain, “that the doors of hell are locked on the inside.” 1 In some sense, we choose our eternity by what we choose to love—self or God.

Alice is not given the option to choose to love her husband and her life is stolen away. Jack instead confines her to a realm where she can only love him. Thankfully, God gave us the freedom to choose. He allows us to operate and to act. He allows us to love and to comfort. He even allows us to sin and to harm. Even in those poor decisions, God’s grace is forever present. However, the consequences, good or bad, are often allowed to play out.

In the creation account, God has grace on Adam and Eve, but the fallout of their actions is still present. This results in them being exiled from the garden and pain being added to their lives in toil and in childbirth. We see this cycle persist in the rest of the story of the Bible—and even in our own lives—with people continuing to make horrible decisions, God having immense grace, and the painful consequences playing out.

God’s transforming work is moving us to will and to act for his purposes (Philippians 2:13). But this work can be rejected and resisted, even by Christians; we must accept his help and choose to abide in him. We have to accept the hand reaching down in love into the black pit where we languish. Choosing the love of God is sometimes quite difficult. In spite of the immense suffering we may face in this life, God walks alongside us, soothing the wounds we collect. From start to finish, God’s grace is present, enabling our freedom and growth. But this choice to accept or reject the invitation into the fullness of his grace is what makes us truly free.

*Please note this movie contains strong language, brief graphic violence, sexual content, and a scene of suicide. 

By Noah Lyle

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