All this changed with the help of his wristwatch and a disembodied voice echoing in his head about his “imminent death.” Surprised, shocked, confused, and panicked, he visits all sorts of experts until he decides to seek the help of a literary expert (Dustin Hoffman) whom he deduces to be the only one who can help him because he figures if his life is being narrated by somebody, then it must involve written literature.
In the course of his investigation, he realizes that he’s missed out on a lot of important things in life and decides to take action to change that. He forms a romantic connection with Ana Pascal, the woman he’s auditing, and even stops counting brush strokes. His life changes completely – that is, until he discovers who has been narrating his life and learns all about his “imminent death.”
The movie is hands down surreal. Hearing somebody accurately narrate your life as it goes on is, as you can imagine, frightening and completely out of this world. But at the same time, it addresses that idea that I’m sure most writers could only imagine: What if our lives were the subject of a fictional novel? Another question it tries to answer is the age-old “What would you do if you knew you were going to die?”
When Harold realizes that his life is being “controlled” by somebody and that he was about to die soon, he does his best to prevent this from happening, and let’s face it, who wouldn’t? Not when you’ve lived a boring life. Not when you’ve done the same thing over and over again. Not when you haven’t felt the floor dropping from under your feet when you fall in love. Not when you still have a lot to do and are only realizing that fact now.
Karen Eiffel (Emma Thompson) faces an ordeal of a completely different kind. What if you had in your hands the power to kill somebody or let him live? What would you do? Faced with a realization and a burden only God has the right to bear, Karen breaks down in front of her typewriter with such a deep and genuine sorrow that is heartbreaking.
This movie prompts the audience to think about their own lives. Are we, as audience members, like Harold, a person so immersed in his personal routines that he has neglected to bask in the beauty of the world around him? Have we unknowingly refused to see through people’s and nature’s facades and simply taken them for granted? Or are we like Karen Eiffel, a person at the top of her game yet miserably stuck in a rut? Do we refuse to listen to other people and choose to remain absorbed in our miserable little worlds at the cost of other people’s lives? Do we unknowingly play God and hurt other people with our words and actions?
We are forced to empathize with Harold and Karen and at the same time reflect on what we have done with our lives and how we have affected others, too, for in the end, our own lives, no matter how ordinary it may seem, will always be stranger than fiction.