A World Away?

This is a poster for the film Leave the World Behind – Fair Use

Our 24/7 reliance on technology plays a big role in “Leave the World Behind,” a film streaming on Netflix now. Set in Long Island, the film stars Julia Roberts, Ethan Hawke and Mahershala Ali.

Roberts and Hawke are the parents of a teenage daughter and son. Roberts is the alpha of the married couple, members of the professional managerial class who no doubt vote for Democrats.

Oh, she hates people. Her occupation in the corporate world explains in part this hatred of others.

In time, odd occurrences begin to affect the family’s vacation. These oddities, from failed internet connectivity to unusual animal activity, increase when Ali and Myha’la Jael Herrold, who plays his daughter, appear at the vacationers’ front door.

Ali is a terrific actor. His smile masks rage, reminding me of a young Morgan Freeman.

In time, suspicions of the strangers’ presence gives way to apprgiveion of their assistance during adverse conditions. Necessity in the face of danger and fear rules the day as access to our modern communication system weakens, and so-called smart technology like self-driving Tesla cars minus drivers crash one after the other in a roadway collision.

We are all in this life of chance and fate together is a conclusion that the Herrold character articulates. She is an acute observer of individual and social fault lines, in my opinion, while poking and prodding the Hawke character, an academic, in a biting scene of marijuana and frank comments.

Under a system that rewards possessive individualism and produces alienated individuals, Herrold’s character makes a revolutionary observation. It delivers much to think about in our time of multiple social fractures, a legacy, I suggest, of the corporate government coopting and crushing of labor unions and progressive movements for decades.

On that note, the Ali character speaks about market signals that he failed to take seriously. That failing, we learn from him, well might have led to his wife’s demise. Interestingly, he depicts the market in almost mystical terms.

That is of course capitalist ideology. It serves in large measure to make the role of the government in the market invisible. It is, for one instance, government policies that line the pockets of Big Tech and Big Pharma.

Government-granted copyrights and patents do not fall from the clouds, and they are hardly as natural as sunrise and sunset. You know, the best democracy money can and does buy on Capitol Hill and statehouses across the US.

Further, and perhaps most strikingly, the Ali character talks of a coup d’état underway in the USA. The irony, of course, is that Uncle Sam has armed and financed scores of such government overthrows around much of the Global South, from Iran in 1953, Guatemala a year later through Libya in 2011, harming the poor and working classes in the former colonized nations.

That history of coup d’état as a foreign policy of Uncle Sam is absent largely in the K-12 American public and private school system. Instead, omission of this imperial history dominates.

There is much of interest to watch in “Leave the World Behind,” an intriguing film adapted from Rumaan Alam’s 2020 novel.

Seth Sandronsky is a Sacramento journalist and member of the freelancers unit of the Pacific Media Workers Guild. Email sethsandronsky@gmail.com