Downsizing: what can millennials learn from Paul Safranek’s existential crisis?


Paul Safranek and his wife played by Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig respectively.


If there is anything the makers of this film shows us is that they can mislead us, the movie-goers, into thinking that this film is a slightly adult version of “Honey, I Shrunk The Kids” (1989). Just to be clear, it’s not.

The film’s setup is not too far from our reality now. Still struggling with problems of increasing carbon emissions, global warming, and overpopulation, a well-meaning Norwegian Professor finally makes a breakthrough in science as an answer to saving our planet: irreversibly shrinking down humanity.

In theory, it checks out but as the movie demonstrates even the most well-intentioned scientific discovery can miss a couple of unprecedented consequences. When the film’s premise revolves around these themes you would think that this movie ends in either two ways, saving the planet or serving as a cautionary tale (or maybe both).

Indeed, the film goes to another route, it forces us to focus on the journey of an ordinary man named Paul Safranek (played by Matt Damon) in a world that is faced with bigger troubling issues.

The film paints Paul Safranek as boring, distant and almost pathetic, yet he easily recognizes prominent public figures from T.V. Although he never discusses his opinion on current developments happening in the film’s universe, this proves that Paul does pay attention to the world around him. As negligible as he is in the bigger scheme of things, he is just like many of us today, in the real world, also looking for a sense of purpose to serve a greater good. And this is what drives Paul to downsize with his wife (played by Kristen Wiig).

While Paul does eventually get an opportunity to join a “greater cause,” he is also forced to recognize his own abilities to do something good even if it’s on a smaller scale. And this is perhaps the most profound message that the film drives home to its audience, is that big or small (quite literally sometimes), we can make a difference in people’s lives in our own little way. We don’t have to drag our feet around, miserably thriving in merely existing to wait for that big break, when we can start now; as opposed to jumping from one trendy lifestyle to another in the pretense of being one of the enlightened ones.

As the peculiar Dusan (Paul’s neighbor played by Christoph Waltz) states (paraphrasing), “The world will end and we will have been long gone by then.” So, this should not stop us from living anyway.

Or I could be wrong, and the film is just telling us that the only thing that is stopping most of us from actually making a big difference is the physical aspect of it, specifically an 11-hour walk uphill before another couple of hours of descending. If you don’t get this reference, go watch the movie till the end and you’ll find this may be one of the funniest parts of the movie.

While all actors generally performed well in the movie, one actor stood out the most (overshadows even Matt Damon’s performance), Hong Chau, playing Vietnamese activist and refuge, Ngoc Tran. She has a couple of notable lines that I can not repeat here as they are deemed vulgar in nature but hilariously delivered on screen. Her addition to the cast furthers my sentiment that Hollywood needs to create more complex characters made for people of color.

Banking on strategic trailer appearances of funny personalities such as Kristen Wiig and Jason Sudeikis to further wheel in general audiences to check out Downsizing while the star power of Matt Damon and Christoph Waltz serve to assure us of the film quality, cementing a good first impression to its audience.

The film is visually stunning, thought-provoking and mildly moving and only negatively impacted by an ending lacking the energy of the first half of the film. #

Additional link: another good movie review on Downsizing, click here.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s