the unexpected

A few nights ago, following the urge to rest our weary feet and spend a few hours snuggled in comfy cinema seats, TD&H and I found ourselves watching ‘The Waiting City’. About an Australian couple adopting a little girl from India, the story follows their journey to Calcutta and the highs and lows of waiting for both the paperwork to be finalised, and their first opportunity to meet their new daughter. You can check out the trailer below.

The Waiting City – Official Trailer from The Waiting City on Vimeo.

The Indian setting was just amazing and though it was fairly slow, for the most part, I actually enjoyed it – though perhaps enjoy is the wrong word. Appreciated it? Either way, I came out of the cinema feeling like the last two hours had been worth it.

Interestingly, TD&H came out thinking otherwise. It wasn’t too surprising – I could see why he wouldn’t necessarily be keen. Yes, it was rather slow. But in our discussion afterwards, I realised something else.

I got caught up in the cinematography, of trying to figure out who the leading lady looked like (a nice cross between a uni friend and a kid I went to primary school with), and letting the story unravel. Perhaps I’m not so quick, but I found the little twists and turns mostly unexpected.

On the other hand, being the quick and clever film-watcher that he is, TD&H had picked out most of the story line before it unraveled. Words such as ‘predictable’, ‘expected’, even ‘somewhat contrived’ would be terms he would use to describe the film.

The Waiting City offered TD&H everything he expected of it and nothing more. And he was left disappointed.

—–

I was thinking about The Waiting City in relation to Don Miller’s book ‘A Million Miles in a Thousand Years‘. I’ve already blogged about it here, and God knows I’ve been thinking about it a lot.

Basically, Don talks about living life as a story. He outlines what he believes are the key elements of story – a character who wants something and has to overcome a conflict to reach it. Don then goes on to unpack some great insights into how story relates to life and how living life as a story can be incredibly powerful.

It’s been over a month now since I read A Million Miles, so I can’t remember if Don talks about ‘the unexpected’. I’m sure he does, maybe not so obviously. But reflecting on both his thoughts and The Waiting City, I’ve come to see how important ‘the unexpected’ is to a good story.

The Waiting City is just an example, but isn’t it true of any film you have seen, or book you may have read?

Whether you ‘liked’ or ‘enjoyed’ the film or not, it is ‘the unexpected’ that always propels the characters forward, that grabs your attention, that keeps you watching until the final credits roll.

We all hate a predictable story line – it’s like we feel cheated – we definitely feel let down.

Funnily enough, in life, I think us human beings usually gravitate to the ‘the expected’. We want things to go the way they have always gone. We don’t usually love change, and we certainly don’t usually embrace risk.

Why is it that I always choose the same thing off the menu of my favourite cafe? Why do people stick in the same job they’ve hated for years? Why why why?

We want to keep ‘the unexpected’ out of our lives and confined to our TV sets and white-paged novels.

We want life to offer us everything we’ve expected of it and nothing more. And then we wonder why we’re all so disappointed.

—–

I am going to try my very hardest to embrace the unexpected. I am going to try my very hardest to get perspective and see that the unexpected might not be comfortable but, good or bad, it will only ever add depth to my story and strength to my character.

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