“I have no pulse,” Elizabeth Gilbert told her friend Delia one day as played out by Julia Roberts and Viola Davies respectively in the 2010 Ryan Murphy-directed film Eat Pray Love. Elizabeth – or Liz as she is fondly known to her friends – continues her rant about how she woke up that day and didn’t feel anything. “Nothing. No passion, no spark, no heat, no faith.”
It got me thinking about how a lot of my girlfriends have recently admitted to feeling uncharacteristically down or unmotivated while they work from home during this pandemic. In a way, social distancing has stripped our own appetite for our lives. “I want to go some place where I can marvel at something: language, gelato, spaghetti, something,” Liz told Delia. Gosh, don’t we all.
Upon its release, the movie attracted a lot of flack. Liz’s account of divorce and discovering pasta in Italy, spirituality in India and a lover in Indonesia is one steeped in extreme privilege. If only we all had enough disposable income to travel the world for a year. I mean, if only we could book a damn flight.
But this article, while it acknowledges the script’s flaws, isn’t about that. It’s about watching an iconic film and finding little learnings that perhaps can get us through our mundane living room lives. Below, here’s six moments from the film – viewed with a 2020 lens – that I hope might inspire you to take up a self-care activity today or feel a little bit of that wanderlust again. Better days are coming – and I promise that pulse will return.
There is something wonderfully warm and romantic about this recurring film score. Whenever Liz’s state of mind turns a little corner, whenever she sees a glimmer of hope or a momentary reprieve from her misery, this melody begins as if to say, “here’s a little opportunity if you just lean into it”. “Flight Attendant” was written and performed by American folk/pop singer-songwriter Josh Rouse and its repetition of those eight notes embody the ease of a new romance, the one that arrives unexpectedly when you just let go and let things happen. We hear it when Liz first meets David in New York (played by James Franco) and then again with Felipe in Bali (Javier Bardem). Play it now to be transported back to a past love and those lusty nights.
Learning To Speak Italian In The Bathtub
Did you know that according to this 2019 New York Times article, loneliness is 15 times more deadly than smoking 15 cigarettes a day? A lot of people have experienced things they never thought would happen to them in these past five months – and consequentially when it comes to mental health, the pandemic has made isolates of us all. When we first meet Liz, she’s going through an exhaustingly messy and painful divorce and in the lead-up to completely up-ending her life, she teaches herself Italian phrases while in the bath tub at night. It’s self-care at its best and I think you should try it if you’re feeling a little low or lonely. Pick up a pocket-sized Italian dictionary here. This one has 40,000 words and phrases for your next trip to the Amalfi.
The Ritual Of Making That Italian Breakfast
Like Liz, I lived in New York and I loved it. But I sometimes wanted a break from the pollution, the honking cars and the pace of its ambitious streets. Inspired by a scene in this film, I made it a morning ritual to cook the same breakfast Liz did when she was in Italy; boiled eggs, steamed asparagus, baked tomato, smoked salmon, olives, olive oil. I’d arrange it on a plate, pour a coffee, sit in the sunshine and read the New York Times (of which one morning I caught the aforementioned study). Sometimes, taking the time to feed your tummy and subsequently your soul through a simple ritual is all you need to keep calm and carry on with your WFH life. Watch the scene here.
Liz’s Thanksgiving Speech
The thanksgiving dinner scene is important in the context of today as it reminds us of the value of good friends and family, particularly in a year like 2020. “This all makes me so grateful, seeing all you happy people who know how to love each other and take care of each other,” says Liz. “I look at the amazing women who I have met who I admire so much and the great men taking care of their women and putting their children to bed. I just feel happy to see it and to be part of it. I’m the luckiest girl in the world.” Because at the end of the day, who was that person in 2019 if they didn’t have these people to fall back on? Watch the scene here.
Those Bali Rice Paddies
When Eat Pay Love was released, a lot of Australian woman who travelled to Bali would try and track down a psychic reading with the elusive medicine man, Ketut Liyer. Liz would ride her bike between Seminyak and Canggu, the famous road hemmed in by tall reeds and rice paddies. Watching these scenes makes me really miss travelling – and specifically the serenity and beauty of Bali. The world won’t be like this forever and Bali will return. In the interim, here’s a list of detailed reviews on great places to stay and eat in Bali for when we can fly there again.
Liz’s “Ruin Is The Road To Transformation” monologue
There’s many parts to this movie that I love. But the one that landed with me a couple of nights ago is the scene where Liz visits the Augusteum in Rome. Backed by this moving film score by Dario Marianelli, it captures Liz’s most important self-discovery moment: when a life seems to be falling apart, it’s usually falling together. The promise that out of all the mess, we will be better off. And we could all probably use this little reminder at the moment.
“A friend took me to the most amazing place the other day. It’s called the Augusteum. Octavian Augustus built it to house his remains. When the barbarians came they trashed it a long with everything else. The great Augustus was Rome’s first true great emperor. How could he have imagined that Rome, the whole world as far as he was concerned, would be in ruins? It’s one of the quietest, loneliest places in Rome. The city has grown up around it over the centuries. It feels like a precious wound, a heartbreak you won’t let go of because it hurts too good.
“We all want things to stay the same. Settle for living in misery because we’re afraid of change, of things crumbling to ruins. Then I looked at around to this place, at the chaos it has endured – the way it has been adapted, burned, pillaged and found a way to build itself back up again. And I was reassured, maybe my life hasn’t been so chaotic, it’s just the world that is, and the real trap is getting attached to any of it. Ruin is a gift. Ruin is the road to transformation.” Watch the scene here.