The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) is an ordinary guy with an ordinary flat and an ordinary job. He really hasn’t done anything noteworthy or mentionable. He has never travelled the world, has no social life to speak of and certainly doesn’t have a girlfriend. In fact, he can’t even bring himself to send a ‘wink’ through an online dating site to his office crush Cheryl (Kristen Wiig).

Walter regularly escapes from his colourless life into an imaginary world of outrageous daydreams, in which he always saves the day and wins the girl. However, he cannot ignore the fact that his job as a negative assets manager at Life is under threat. The magazine is closing down, and the image that is to appear on the cover of the final edition is missing. Following what he believes to be a trail of clues set by his photographer friend Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn), he sets off to track it down. The adventure that follows is more outrageous than anything even Walter could have dreamed up.

Questions 

Did you enjoy the film? Why or why not? If you had read, heard or seen any other versions of the story how did this version compare?

How would you describe the end of the film: redemptive, triumphant, heart-warming, or something else? Did the conclusion work, given what had transpired in the film?

How did the film (if at all) define beauty? How do you think people in your community might define beauty, and how does it compare with the definition presented in the film?

To what extent does the film encourage viewers to ‘live in the moment’? Why might this be a popular message in contemporary society? Does this mantra have any flaws or pose any problems, and how helpful is it as a life philosophy?

What does the film have to say about mental or spiritual experiences that seem to take us beyond the physical world? Does it support or rule out the possibility of a non-physical realm? Is appreciating the tangible world around you incompatible with daydreaming and fantasising? Or with hoping and dreaming for a better life?

‘To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other, and to feel. That is the purpose of life.” – Fictional Life Magazine motto.

Discuss the motto in regards to seeing and believing that which we can’t see and belief in God.

Do you think many people in our society would relate to Walter wanting to escape the mundane life, and why this might be the case? What might prompt someone to break out of their everyday routine? Where might people look if they want to find deeper meaning and purpose in their lives?

Adrian Drayton

Adrian Drayton is the Director of Reel Dialogue. A film critic and commentator on culture for 20 years, he believes in the power of cinema and the power of God to start conversations about faith and culture. He is also a massive Star Wars nerd.