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Film Review: A Quest for Meaning

by Nathanaël Coste and Marc de la MénardièreIcarus Films
reviewed by Bilge Ebiri
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A Quest for Meaning poster

a Ménardière and Nathanaël Coste, one a slick, successful bottled water salesman, the other a documentarian who’s just made a film about water access in India, reconnect after many years and go off on a journey around the world to find stories that give them hope. Did the separation of humans from nature lead to the increased commodification of our world, and thus our growing unhappiness? And if so, how can we reconnect with nature, and with our true selves? Probing these questions, the duo discover alternative lifestyles, sustainable practices, and new ways of understanding progress and happiness. 

Did the separation of humans from nature lead to the increased commodification of our world, and thus our growing unhappiness?

It’s an interesting conceit: de la Ménardière and Coste share directorial duties, and some of the film is framed as a dialogue between them. But to its credit, A Quest for Meaning foregrounds the thinkers and activists whom the directors interact with, while keeping the filmmakers’ own drama mostly to a minimum. As we (and they) listen to astronomers, philosophers, farmers, Aztec medicine men, yoga teachers, and more, we may start to question our current worship of modernity. But A Quest for Meaning is never scolding or despairing. It is ultimately a hopeful, cheerful film. It wants to pull the rug out from under the viewer, but it wants to do so gently, playfully, and with a sense of possibility, not frustration. By and large, it succeeds. —BE


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