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As Fate Would Have It: ‘The Adjustment Bureau’ And Us

There is a scene in The Adjustment Bureau — in theaters this Friday — I keep on replaying over and over again since I first saw it at a screening a couple of weeks ago.

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David Norris (played by Matt Damon) is already aware of The Adjustment Bureau, a group of Mad Men-esque guardian angels who control the fate of every human being. Few are aware of them but since David went against the adjustment bureau’s plan they wrote out for him all in pursuit of a ballerina named Elise Sellas (played by Emily Blunt) with whom he’s fell madly in love, the adjustment bureau force themselves in David’s life.

They tell him he and Elise are not supposed to be together, that his destiny (which they have already wrote out for him) is to be the next President of the United States. Elise’s destiny is to be the most renowned ballerina in the world. David calls their bluff, pursues Elise anyway. No sooner does David attend one of Elise’s shows does she fall and break her ankle. When he visits her at the hospital, David is told by one of the adjustment bureau officers the incident was not a mistake, it was a sign of what would happen to Elise’s career should David continue to see her. So David leaves Elise, in the hospital, unwilling to get in the way of her dreams and essentially choosing for him (and to some extent her) a fate that leaves them apart.

It was this kind of scene that makes The Adjustment Bureau a left-of-field love story. The movie itself is a genre mash-up of romance and science-fiction — like The Notebook meets The Bourne Identity — and for my money, one of those rare love stories that focuses on a man and his struggle not with loving someone, but how much to love someone. David knows what’s at risk if he chooses to stay with Elise, but Elise has no idea. When she notices David’s hesitation to make a move, she interprets it as waffling, but David has been sworn to secrecy about the adjustment bureau’s existence, and therefore has trouble explaining to Elise why he never completely follows through, and therein lies the rub to which I can relate.

Don’t we all sort of struggle with the same battle? Somehow, when things aren’t quite going well in our career, or we need to focus on our career, we feel like it comes at a cost, and sometimes that cost is making a choice to be on our own. Just recently, a woman I was dating told me we should stop dating all because “we” need to focus on ourselves. That’s the word she used, “we”.

So when “we” need to focus on our careers, “we” can’t possibly make time to focus on each other, is essentially what we convince ourselves. But whatever happened to us helping each other?

David wants what’s best for Elise, and is somehow convinced he’s not a part of that plan as evidenced by her breaking her ankle when he walks into her show. This is his interpretation based on what he has seen and what he has been told by the bureau. The reason the scene stuck out to me is he never asks Elise how she feels not only about the ankle injury, but about him, and how important it was that he was there for her when she probably needed him for support more than she needed a pair of crutches. David is so career focused that he pushes the same attitude onto Elise without ever asking Elise if she thinks the same way. He makes a “we” decision by himself.

The only thing more troubling than trying to figure out our own destiny is trying to figure out the destiny of someone else. There have been times I’ve been convinced that my destiny is to be with someone only to find out they had a different destiny for themselves in mind, and I always wonder, whose destiny is more correct, mine or hers? As is the case with most movies, you will see what happens to David and Elise in the end, so I’m going to avoid any spoiler alerts, but for those who do see it, pay attention. The movie aims to make us ponder whether we live a life of free will or predetermined fate, but after, I came away asking myself two more questions: How does our destiny as individuals affect the destiny of someone else? If the perfect person doesn’t fit in our lives perfectly, are they perfect for us at all?


The Process: Still haven’t run yet, but working out all the same.

Poppin’ Questions Podcast: Click here to listen to Episode 27. Hit me on my Formspring or email me at for a question to be considered for Episode 28.

The #UIGM Twitter Conversation: Tonight, it’s going down at 10 p.m. EST. I’ll be on Twitter for a 30 minutes discussing the two questions I asked above. Join in with the hashtag #UIGM and let’s talk about it.

See a mistake? Hit me here,

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  • FloatyBoat

    As someone who is a firm believer that God is the director of our lives, it’s my belief that we as people should only concern ourselves with the roles we were given as individuals, before worrying about how this affects the destiny of another (i.e. a potential mate, not an actual mate).

    You were born into this world naked and (excluding twins, etc.) alone. Although we are creatures that need one another, ultimately, it’s a solitary experience that is complimented by the presence of others. Mental focus, ambition, and the like can certainly be influenced by other people/your partner… but in my opinion, it all comes to what your prioritize.

    Even the perfect person would be subject to the scrutiny of an imperfect situation.

  • Guest

    Very true.
    Well said

  • Dr. Brightside

    you’re brilliant Jozen…nice finish

  • Loveaddictblog

    I truly relate to this post because I find myself in a place now, where I know that if I focused more on the things I wanted, then I would probably be realizing my dreams instead of starting from scratch. I had a choice between persuing an internship at Vibe and getting an apartment with my boyfriend who I went on to marry then divorce . We were in college in another state, and he was very dependant on me and if I didn’t get the apartment with him that year then he would have been pretty much homeless.

    If someone told me that I wasn’t meant to be with him I would have faught them. The “destiny” police would be chasing me all over the world because I thought that love was more important. Maybe it will be one day, but choosing my relationship over my career was my biggest regret. i ended up with a career that patys the bills but I’m so unfulfilled, and he ended up in his mothers basement pondering the purpose of life.

    He would also be in a better place right now if I wasn’t always taking care of him. We sacrificed way too much for the sake of “love”

  • ladyfirefly1922

    I had this situation happen to me and I really think its just BS to avoid being in something serious. But thats just my experience.

  • Charisma N Class

    Great post. I don’t think you should ever have to compromise your destiny to be with the person who was meant for you. The most beautiful thing about being in a relationship with the right person is that the person not only complements you, but assists you as you fulfill your purpose! It’s truly a fulfilling experience that shouldn’t ever leave you to choose your soulmate over your purpose.

    If I find my relationship with someone who makes me choose between my God-given purpose and him, then I know that this person is not for me. God has given us an assignment to complete before we leave this earth and because of this, he chooses a partner for us that will help us complete this assignment.

    Again, this was a thought-provoking topic. I can’t wait to read everyone’s thoughts during #UGIM Twitter discussion!

    PS: I am dying to see this movie!

  • Guest

    Ugh! A spoiler alert would have been nice.

  • Danielle Michelle

    This particular post shows that you are so enlighten….I love it!

  • finestcreativity

    That was the exact thing I thought when I watched this part of the movie. I believe people make similar decisions everyday. They potentially know what the outcome could be from the decisions they make, but that’s why it is a decision. The character Elise would have never known what her fate would have been, and would have probably been just as happy as a kindergarten ballet teacher as long as she was happy with David.
    These kinds of decisions are made on the daily. But that is why we have free will and can choose our fate, maybe??? haha

    great post Jozen 🙂

  • AGirlNamedGOYS

    When it comes to questions like this, we have to relearn how to know ourselves and listen to ourselves. The things driving most of our lives our based on falsehood (more often motivated by urges for material gain, prestige, status, ego, or the approval of others than a desire for spiritual growth). They are things we think we want and have decided to pursue and have nothing to do with what our “destiny” or purpose is.

    Most of us let life lead us along (even if we think we are actively pulling the strings, we often are not), and the film’s director made it clear that that is what this movie is about. One thing leads to another to create our lives as opposed to us actively writing it is the concept. This is about evolving to a place of strength above what is laid out for you and “where life takes you” to a place of strength and self determination.

    Life will try to show you when your path is not right. For instance Damon had a love of politics as a result of a childhood incident with his father and because of an “emptiness” inside him that popularity/ politics filled. Is it correct to pursue an entire career in politics to feel falsely fulfilled, or does it make more sense break down heal that emptiness?

    In sum, the plans we make for ourselves are distinctly different our purposes and destinies and when we find ourselves with a mate who seems to be going in another direction, it is important for both to sit with themselves and look deep within to find their true paths, and once that is done, the way to make things work will be apparent.

  • Brittany House

    Exciting post. I recently got out of a relationship in which I would have fought and did fight others who told me I was destined for more. Now that time has healed some of the wounds and the fog of love is clearing from my eyes I can see what others were saying. We were not meant for one another and were holding one another back from a more fufilling life.

    As a Christian, we are taught that there are situations that we must endure in order to grow as a person and in our faith. If we keep our hearts centered on God and listen to what it is that he wants for us we will find that all necessary pieces fall into place. I am not a preachy devout person but this is a simple truth that many try to over look in search for more complications.

  • KB

    I saw this movie today solely as a result of my curiousity being piqued by this post. I loved it. It was the perfect mix for me– a little sci-fi/suspense/romance all rolled up into one well-acted and beautifully shot package. I <3 Anthony Mackie. I would totally see this again.

    Anyway, I think that if someone even slightly perceives themselves as getting in the way of my dreams and what I want for my life (I've been hit with that "We need to focus on ourselves" bit), then that person is not the man for me. I can't say that I've concerned myself with pondering how I may or may not affect anyone else's destiny. But I do think that if there is such a thing as the perfect man for me, he WILL fit into my life, and I will fit into his…and I think, as far as the movie, that's why it ended the way it did…

    We all have to fit somewhere.

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  • Onedia bka MissWhite

    I saw the movie today, and I came away with the same feeling. By leaving her at the hospital, he decided that her being the most famous ballerina in the world was the destiny she would have wanted for herself. Without presenting her with the little facts he could divulge, in essence he decided for her.

    It’s a hard decision to make when you love someone, whether or not you want to take them away from what you perceive as their most important dream. We somehow shortchange ourselves when we are either too modest or too sweet to see that we could possibly be the only dream that a potential love could want. Great post Jozen!

  • YW Purnomosidhi

    I like the theme of this movie.