Reviewed by Alicia Glass
Director: Riley Wood
Studio: Not A Camel Productions
Review Rating: 8 out of 10
The journey of a single dollar bill and the lives it affects, inadvertently and directly, along the way.
We as collective humans have more in common with each-other than most of us ever realize, or are willing to admit in some nasty cases. We all covet and desire, love and hate and all kinds of emotions betwixt and between, torn between responsibility and the need to just say, “Screw it all!” Our actions, and occasionally the very lack of acting, ripple-affects those in our lives, and sometimes even outside or our sphere of awareness, in ways we can’t possibly begin to fathom, but are endlessly fascinating to ruminate upon. And it is this circular unknowing that A Life Lived dives into, presenting the journey of a dollar bill with a heart on it for our perusal.
One wouldn’t think that a man who had dumped his wife and gotten a brand-new upgraded girlfriend who need to pay for his sex elsewhere, but there you have it. Our first protagonist went to get change for a $20 from the grocery store and the adorkable eternally smiling cashier was not only super-duper extra-nice to him, she drew a heart on one of the dollar bills. This is of course how we know that it’s that particular dollar bill we’re following, but hey, that works for me. And not too much later, when he decides to go get his rocks off with a motel Dominatrix, that’s where the hearted dollar bill ends up.
We follow the heart to a botched robbery of a convenience store; Tom’s wife is dying, his insurance has run out, and he’s been nerving himself to rob in full view of the store for hours. In trying to be nice and let Tom off with a minor infraction, the store clerk actually made it worse for him, but there are still some avenging angels in the police force, and a certain Mr. Jackson pockets the hearted bill in an actual theft for a genuinely good cause.
We follow the heart unerringly through a thievery sleepover, a cocaine slide from whacked-out performer Dixx, the revenge of Dixx’s assistant and her attempt to break the 4th wall inside the movie, the plight of homeless George, a disgusting attempt at sexual coercion when the bill goes “missing” from a diner till, and finally Delby Madison gets a lawyerly consultation fee from Peter, Tom’s brother, for, you guessed it, a single dollar bill with a heart on it.
We’ve come round to the end, at least the end of this bill’s particular journey, and as many journeys do, this one ends in death. The death of Tom’s beloved wife Martha, yes, but he was sprung from jail in enough time to say goodbye to her, in tears and lamentations and perhaps even a little relief that her pain had finally come to an end. Tom will have to do some time in jail, but it’s likely to be very little, and he’s allowed some extra time off for the funeral and a night of mourning after. As Tom sits and ruminates over a life he lived, with Martha, and now the life he may have to live without her, he needs some way to light the very fine Cuban cigar his brother gifted him. Wooden matches aren’t doing it. And then, finally, Tom’s eyes fall on the dollar bill with a heart drawn on it that made its way back to him – a fitting end for the life lived of that one single solitary dollar bill.
Of course there is a wonderful little easter egg after that, we see the morning routine of the kooky cat lady grocery store clerk, as she prepares to be eternally cheerful and smiling no matter what comes her way, and always and forever drawing random hearts on peoples single dollar bills. What lives will these bills lead, how will they cross us in unsuspecting ways and bring us together, or apart, depending on the choices made with these little green pieces of paper that can move the world?
After the showing of the film, which I greatly enjoyed, there was a Q&A session with filmmaker and director Riley Wood, who delightedly told me about more easter eggs and tidbits to be found in A Life Lived. Such as the number 13 myth, referencing the original 13 colonies and said to be found hiding all over in our currency, connecting to all sorts of mysticism and ancient secret socities; director Wood subtly inserted the number 13 in many places in the film. Wood confirmed that the cocaine legend was indeed inserted into the film, for it is after all part of the dollars own legend, and that every named character in the film was named from a person somewhere on U.S. currency (Jackson, Jefferson, etc.). And lastly, Wood talked about giving each of the main characters a few moments alone in their vehicle as a spotlight into their heads, because every one of us is at least a slightly different person when we’re alone in our car.
The film is still working on distribution rights, but believe me when I say it is a delightfully heart-strung romp and should be viewed whenever possible.
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A Life Lived Trailer from Riley Wood on Vimeo.