Tuesday, 13 October 2009
Jerry Downing is a wandering soul in search of inspiration and an opportunity to publish his novel. His flatmates, Kerry, Julia and Rachel are presented to us through his eyes, and before they moved in he could flex some economic muscle. Now that he is unemployed he is an outsider. Julia can see the possibilities in him and tries to sell him a new identity by finding a job where he has the opportunity to be united with his other half like she has. He rejects the offer because he has tried that before and failed. His decision to devote himself entirely to his novel makes him very unpopular. This is highlighted when Julia says: ‘I just hope it’s worth giving up three years of your life.’ Convinced that he is socially and emotionally naïve, Julia storms out of the room and pronounces judgment on him. At this point the wandering theme is introduced as Jerry makes his way to Clapham Junction jobcentre to sign on the dole. It continues into the claustrophobic environment of his room where he checks in for agency work. The darkness quickly gathers as his efforts are nullified. He continues his lonely wanderings looking at job adverts with sad eyes, knowing that the restricted list is going to prevent him for securing those jobs. He returns home, pacing up and down in his room like a caged animal in a private trap. The combination of emptiness and isolation in the montage dramatises the anxiety of being unemployed. He tries to extricate himself from the quicksand of his obsession by looking out of the window.
Jerry Downing is an unformed man who is imprisoned by unemployment. His alienation from the world of work has made him weaker as a man and consigned him to a sofa to be an observer of life in the same way that L.B. Jeffries is consigned to a wheelchair to observe other people's lives in 'Rear Window'. The television is Jerry's rear window and the sofa is his wheelchair. He is a man that has drifted through the past few years without any deep relationships, and it is in this sequence that we get to see him from the viewpoint of other characters.
Kerry Cerberus is the mirror image of Jerry. She enters the scene on a romantic mission to win his heart. Both of them are single, but Jerry embodies the twin hell of singleness and unemployment. The only thing that separates them is the fact that Kerry has a job.
Rachel Angus is an upper-middle-class woman without literature. Unlike Jerry, she has never been unemployed nor does she have an appreciation for the arts. Her interest is in current affairs. Rather than offering friendship to Jerry she asks him if the news is on. Whereas Jerry and Kerry have spent their lives trying to be socially mobile, Rachel has remained horizontally within her own society. She represents the old world of Victorian manners and etiquette contrasted by the world of the educated classes within working class society and their social mobility that Jerry represents. This is emphasized by their separateness on the sofa. He is in a state of no-development because of the rejection of his novel, whilst she is also in a state of no-development because she has remained firmly rooted within her Victorian values. In this they are both alike, but although they live in close proximity to each other they are still isolated from one another. The triangle of singleness is complete between Jerry, Kerry and Rachel.
Julia Wells is the herald of the film who calls Jerry into adventure. She represents ordinary middle class life and symbolizes a normality that Jerry strives. She has a healthy relationship with her boyfriend and is the only person in the household who is not single. This is a quality that Jerry finds attractive, and he engages with her in an attempt to participate in this normal world.
Jerry Downing is an underdeveloped up man who is viewed with suspicion by his flatmates because he doesn't have a job. His passive voyeurism of watching television is seen specifically by Rachel as demonstrating deviant behaviour. But his stasis is countered by the activities of Kerry and Julia.
In the first of three tests, Kerry tries to pull Jerry out of his passivity by inviting him to go salsa dancing. He turns down her offer, but invites her to try again another time.
He is then encouraged by Julia to find a full time job so that he can find his partner in the workplace like she did. He rejects her advice, bound to his sofa and looking up at her like a little child. She senses that there is something wrong, and responds by externalising some of her own buried animosities.
When Jerry sees his father, Nicholas Downing, on his way to the Jobcentre in Clapham Junction, he sees a projection of himself: Friendless, Jobless and doomed to be unemployed for the rest of his life. Nicholas Downing is what Jerry Downing will be like in 20 years time if he doesn't change.
Now that Jerry Downing has entered the world of work in a publishing house, his line manager, Karen Glinda, becomes his ally and mentor. On his first day of work she buys him a drink. Later on in the week she buys him a coffee, nursing him like little baby. Her productive energy counters Jerry’s passive invalidity, replacing the inadequacy of Nicholas Downing as a father figure. Like Kerry, Karen buys Jerry a drink in the pub, but unlike Kerry, Karen enables him to move on with his novel. Because of this, Karen replaces Kerry as well by becoming his girl Friday, relegating Kerry to the position of Miss Lonelyheart. Karen Glinda is the key to unlocking Jerry’s novel.
Julia Wells is a closet writer who is interested in Jerry's endeavour to publish a novel having had her own creative ambitions drummed out of her by family and friends. Once she sees Jerry getting closer to his dream by working for a publisher she extends the hand of friendship by cooking him a meal. But it is only half a meal because she cooks him something that he doesn't eat. In effect, she is feeding herself because she wants to extract the necessary information from him that will enable her to get closer to her dream.
Jerry's success in securing employment is met with an atmosphere of resistance by Kerry when Julia informs her of the new development in his life. She observes Kerry's mounting opposition against Jerry and tries to appease the situation by cooking him a meal. Kerry, on the other hand, has given up on Jerry because she is convinced that romance will not develop between them. She has invited him to salsa dancing, bought him a drink and cooked him a meal to establish a feeling of romance, only to discover that there is no room in his life for her. There is now bad blood between Jerry and Kerry which has transformed her from an ally to an enemy.
Kerry Cerberus is imprisoned in Jerry's mind as an upper working class girl with aspirations to enter into middle class society through her education. He is a projection of what she will become, and in him she recognises her own faults.
She walks up the stairs to his room, hypnotically drawn to her quest to interrogate him. It represents her crossing the line from being an initial ally to evolving into an enemy. She invades his room, sussing out an emotional weak spot in his character and starts to needle him. She continues to belittle him, judging him by the standards of the culture she wants to enter into. But in passing judgement about him being unemployed she has condemned herself.
Kerry's ordeal comes when she is stripped away from all the exterior trappings of young professional society and reduced to unemployment.
Her life converges with Jerry when he returns home as a young professional in the publishing industry and looks at a parallel of himself in her, thrown back onto her own resources, reduced to the passive voyeurism of unemployment. Kerry Cerberus has now turned into the old Jerry Downing.
The hidden energy at work below the surface of his relationship with his flatmates culminates in Jerry's ordeal - eviction from the house. But who is responsible? Jerry Downing is now a drifting soul with no roots in search of a home.
Jerry Downing spiritually drifts into work with the mental lapse of a man without society. Karen invites him for a drink during his lunch break, but again he is a man who is metaphorically not there. He shares his ordeal with her, and she extends the hand of friendship by taking him under her wing in order to help him grow as a writer. Karen Glinda now becomes his new father figure.
Karen begins a series of workshops to help Jerry improve his novel so that she can present him respectably to the world of publishing. Her involvement in his life provides him with a living relationship that helps him to grow as a person and move on with his life. When the novel is finally accepted for publication, Jerry returns the dream of being a published writer to its rightful owner - his father. The novel represents his father's unfulfilled ambition of being a published writer, but now that Jerry has compensated his father for what he didn't achieve he can now move on and live his own life.
Jerry returns to his flat with a new personality to re-present himself to his flatmates. He has been pulled out of his passive voyeurism by Karen, and has experienced a re-birth through his relationship with her. He looks at the house of his old personality, but his memory of the place has been healed. Now it is time for him to re-establish contact with his flatmates to release them from the memory of his past.
Redeemed through the healing power of a balanced relationship, Jerry stares at the empty tomb of his old personality, mourning the death of his old self. He doubles the bedsheets in half, as if to bury the cozy womblike retreat of his bed in a coffin. He has conquered his old life and fulfilled his father's dream. He then moves to the window, ready to become a member of the outside world.
Jerry stands at the window with his arms raised in a Christlike image, looking out into the world that he is now a part of. He has risen from the darkness of his old personality and conquered the paralysis of unemployment. Removal from the house has made him more able to feel and love.
Jerry re-presents himself to his flatmates in order to heal their memory of him. His spirit is refreshed, and he has a stronger sense of self.
Jerry inspires Julia's better self by living out his calling as a novelist and returning with the elixir of his new personality. It empowers her with hope to live out her own calling as a writer, bringing out her talent from the shadows into the light.
Jerry re-presents himself to Kerry in an attitude of repentance to restore her to wholeness. She manages to find a place in her heart to forgive him, healing the memory of his old personality. Both of them are now able to move on with their lives as redeemed human beings.
Having learned how to live and love, Jerry Downing leaves the house for good, ready to be a full participant in life.