Life Itself (2018) Script

Cue "Love Sick," Bob Dylan, track one, "Time Out of Mind."

♪ I'm walking... ♪ Yeah, that's good.

♪ Through streets that are dead... ♪ That's real good.

We open tight on a man.

Oh, hold up, hold up, hold up, hold up, let me rephrase.

We open on our hero.

We push in on his face.

Motherfucker, I said push in on that shit.

Mid-20s, handsome, gay... gay in that cool cat kind of way.

Gay like "Billy on the Street" gay.

Gay like, "It's who I am, it's not all I am, baby."

Yeah, that's one cool cat we got over here.

But right now, this cat's anything but cool.

This cat's in crisis.

I feel ashamed, I guess.

I know this doesn't make me look very good, but it's, uh, breaking me, and, um...

Let it go, brother, let it go like a proud asshole.

Let it go, let it go.

I just...

He and I have been together for so long.

I know it sounds cliché, but I guess...

I like knowing he's on my team, you know?

I know, my brother. I hear you, my brother.

Let it go.

Well, this new guy has come along.

Hmm, proceed.

He's new, he's exciting, and he's so much younger.

Aw, ain't no shame, brother.

I know I can't stick with someone out of loyalty.

And you know this.

Okay, I'm gonna do it.

I'm gonna put Sterling Shepard in my flex wide receiver spot and drop Larry Fitzgerald and maybe I'll pick up Miami D off waivers, too.

Say what now?


You know we've talked about how obsessing over fantasy football can't simply replace obsessing over food.

Okay, my bad.

That motherfucker is not our hero.

Look at that pretty therapist over there.

Calming his anorexic fantasy football-loving ass down.

Push in on her for a sec.


I said push in, man! Come on!

Oh, yeah.

Now I'm seeing it.

That's a hero right there.

Amazing smile, the silky smooth hair.

Let me look at you, girl.

Whoo! That's what I'm talking 'bout.

Now we in bidness, ladies and gentlemen.

We got ourselves a hero.

♪ And I wonder... ♪ Now, like any great hero, our hero wasn't perfect.

She smoked, first of all, which they normally don't let you show in movies anymore, even though we all still smoke sometimes.

You know you smoke sometimes.

You and the wife have a date night, you each have two martinis, you guys are feeling wild so you buy a pack of smokes on the way home and you each smoke one in the 7-Eleven parking lot.

Then she makes you throw out the pack, but instead of throwing it out, you hide it in a plant, and some nights, you sneak out and have one.

But she smells that shit on you like she's a nicotine detective.

She smells that shit on you like she's Mariska Hargitay on "Law & Order: SVU,"

Hey. Marg Helgenberger on "CSI,"

Big fan.

S. Epatha Merkerson on "Law & Order,"

Angie Harmon on "Rizzoli & Isles..."

What the fuck?!

Oh, my God.

Holy shit!

Holy shit!

She just got straight-up run over by a bus!


She's gonna be okay, everybody.

Probably a little banged up, but she's gonna be fine.

She's our hero, she's gonna be...



Ma'am, can you hear me?

♪ Just don't know what to do ♪

♪ I'd give anything to ♪ Fuck it, I'm out.

♪ Be with you. ♪

Will Dempsey was 35 years old when he gave up on his Sam Jackson Unreliable Narrator screenplay.

Will was not well, but you don't need me to tell you that.

Top o' the morning to you, good sir.

Oh, boy. What could I get for you?

Double espresso, large cup.

You got it.

And what's your name? Will.

Is that Will with one "L" or two "L"s?

It's two "L" s.


♪ Light in this place ♪

♪ Is so bad ♪ Fuck you so much.

♪ Making me sick in the head ♪

♪ And all the laughter is just making me sad ♪

♪ The stars have turned cherry red... ♪ Will! Yep.

Double espresso, large cup.

Oh, delicious.

Thank you.

Just gonna do a long pour here.


Thank you. You want one?

No, thanks.

It's Xanax. Still no.

Boo humbug.

It's actually "bah humbug."

That's what she said.

♪ I got nowhere left to turn ♪

♪ I got nothing left to burn ♪ It's Dylan! "Standing in the Doorway."

Third track on "Time Out of Mind."

It's his comeback album.

The whole thing's like a giant fucking Keats poem.

Sir? You're gonna love it.

Just give it a chance. You're gonna make me leave?

I am. Bah humbug.

♪ I'm strumming on my gay guitar ♪ Sir? Okay. Strum outside. Here we go.

♪ Smoking a cheap cigar ♪ Okay.

Here we go. Thank you very much.

♪ Under the midnight moon ♪ Sir. You got to give it a chance!

No. Get out. Give it a chance.

It's gonna grow on you. You're gonna love it!

Will hadn't always been not well.

It had really only been since his wife had left him.

You know what, we'll get to that.

Right now, let's just enjoy them as they were.

Give it a chance. It'll grow on you.

He sound, he sounds like he's suffering.

He is suffering.

He's suffering like... From a throat infection.

...every great artist is suffering.

I think it's sinusitis, is what it is.

No one rocks a sinus infection like Bob Dylan.

I'll give him that. Just, just... just, like, just give him a chance.

Well, he ain't the only one suffering.

Come here, Fuckface.

Uh-oh. Hello, buddy.

Hey, little buddy. What?

You feeling left out? See, Fuckface gets it.

Come here, Fuckface.

Will loved his wife Abby with an intensity usually reserved for stalkers.

She was everything a man could ask for in a wife.

She was nurturing and she was beautiful, and she ate any kind of sushi the chef served to her, even the uni.

Yes, Will was sure of it:

Abby Dempsey was absolutely perfect.

At least back then she was.

Listen to this for 30 seconds, and then try and tell me Bob Dylan's not a poet.

Okay. Let's listen to Hoobastank now.

See? No, no, no, no, no, no, no. Just 30 seconds...

To Mars? Thir...

Okay, let's pop that in. Just 30 seconds.

Baby, we've been listening to him gargle Shh.

...for, like, a month. Because... I know, because I'm in a phase. I can't hear this, like, Chewbacca noise anymore. I'm in a phase...

I just want you to just lean into it with me, okay?

Will you please?

♪ Is just making me sad... ♪ This is an important album.

I mean, this is the comeback album.

They thought he was done. Everybody just wrote him off.

They said you don't come back from the crazy he had, and then boom.

'97, "Time Out of Mind."

He won three Grammys, including Album of the Year.

He beat Radiohead and Paul McCartney.

It was this intense, unexpected genius.

Just hard and dark and... and... I mean, he said, "I'm Bob Dylan, you're not.

Eat a dick."

He told everybody to eat a dick?

Metaphorically, he told everyone to eat a dick.

So, listen... like, okay.

Okay, okay.

Shh, just listen to this.

Listen to this. The man's a genius.

He's pulling from the poetry of Keats.

He's getting...

Shh. Stop it. Stop.

Shh, shh. Stop.


This is important to me.


Thank you.

Come here, Fuckface. ♪ Shadows are falling ♪ Appreciate this with me.

♪ And I've been here all day ♪

♪ It's too hot to sleep ♪

♪ Time is running away ♪

♪ Feel like my soul has ♪ Stop.

♪ Turned into steel... ♪ Stop.

It sounds like he has a huge cock lodged in his throat.

You are an asshole.

You are an asshole.

No. No, no.

No. Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa!

Fuckface, Fuckface, Fuckface! We're crushing him.

Careful, careful, careful, careful.

Oh, I'm sorry, Fuckface.

No. He's okay.

Hey, we have to get up.

I have to take a shower. What?

And we have to go to your parents'.

But you said that... We're gonna be late.

You said that we could listen to Smash Mouth after.

No, I did not. Yes, you did.


Are you pregnant?

What's going on here?


♪ The air is getting hotter ♪

♪ There's a rumbling in the skies ♪

♪ I've been wading through the high muddy water ♪

♪ With the heat rising in my eyes ♪

♪ Every day your memory grows dimmer ♪

♪ It doesn't haunt me like it did before ♪

♪ I've been walking through the middle of nowhere ♪

♪ Trying to get to heaven before they close the door ♪

♪ You broke a heart that loved you ♪

♪ Now you can seal up the book ♪

♪ And not write anymore ♪

♪ I've been walking that lonesome valley ♪

♪ Trying to get to heaven before they close the door... ♪ You ever gonna ask me out, Will?

I'm just waiting for the right moment.

That's good to know.

All right.

I'll see you around.

Abby, I'm waiting for the right moment

'cause when I ask you out, there's not gonna be any turning back for me.

I'm not gonna date anybody else for the rest of my life, I'm not gonna love anybody else for the rest of my life, I'm not gonna really care about anything else for the rest of my life.

I'm waiting for the right moment, Abby, 'cause when I ask you out, it's gonna be the most important moment of my life.

And I just want to make sure that I get it right.

So, how you doing today, Will?


Sorry. Did you say something?

Yes, I said, "How are you doing?"

Uh... you know.



I tried masturbating the other day.

I tried thinking of Abby, but I couldn't really get it done, so then I, um...

I tried thinking of you... but, you know, you jerk off to your therapist, you should be institutionalized.

You were institutionalized.


She left six months ago today.

That's right.

And you've been in a facility for almost half that time, and now I, I can't help but wonder...

Will, are you listening to me?


So, I'm just wondering how you're doing being back in the world again.

Uh, you know. Same.

I did the writing exercise you asked me to do.

Really? I'm surprised.

You've been so resistant to writing down your feelings.

Oh, no, I didn't do that. I wrote a movie instead.

I did, like, uh, like, well, like, five pages of a movie.

It was very bad.

Abby and I always talked about writing a screenplay together.

Like a... husband and wife Tarantino, you know?

...I'm "Super Fly T.N.T."

You wouldn't have liked it.

My screenplay.

You were in it, kind of.

Abby wasn't, which, you know, I know was the whole point.

I met this guy, when I was institutionalized.

This really sweet guy.

Horrible life.

All he could talk about without crying was fantasy football, so he talked about it a lot.

I liked that guy.

Great face.

A movie star face, you know.

Oh, poor motherfucker was the only guy there that seemed worse off than I was.

We'd have dinner every night together.

And then one night he didn't show up, which sucked for him 'cause it was pizza night.

Turned out he'd...

How'd that make you feel?

Happy for him.

Or at least relieved.

I mean, you know, he was pretty miserable.

And I'm no doctor, but I don't think he's ever gonna feel any better.

Okay, well, that brings me back to my initial question.

How are you feeling?

Uh, you know. Same.

You keep saying that.

I keep meaning it.

Have you spoken to her, Will, since you've been out?

Abby, please, can you come back to me?

I'm sorry. This sucks, man.

This fucking sucks. I got to go. I'm sorry.

I got to go. Please.


Have you been to your parents', like we discussed?

I don't want to.

Will, part of the reason that you were discharged and put into my...

I don't want to!

Sorry. That was weird.

Yesterday, you said that you'd been feeling aimless.

Well, I usually have pretty good aim, so...

♪ It was a teenage wedding ♪

♪ And the old folks wished them well... ♪ Thanks, friend.

I ain't your friend, palooka.

This is for you, Peggy Sue. Oh, my.

Thanks, daddy-O.

We'll name him Fuckface.

Sit, Fuckface, sit.

Good, dog.

♪ It goes to show you never can tell ♪

♪ They furnished off an apartment ♪

♪ With a two-room Roebuck sale ♪

♪ The Coolerator was crammed ♪

♪ With TV dinners and ginger ale ♪

♪ But when Pierre found work... ♪ Marry me.


Let's get married.

We've been dating less than a year.

Yeah, I know.

And I feel like I've shown incredible restraint waiting this long.

Say yes.

You want to say yes. No, I don't.

You want to say yes so bad it hurts.

You're cocky. I'm right.

Say yes.

Say yes.

Or I swear to God, if you don't say yes, I will shoot this nimrod on general principle.

Stop it.

Please say, "Yes, I'll marry you," or I'll fucking shoot myself...

Stop! Will! Say, "Yes, I'll marry you."


Sorry. That was weird.

I love you.

You're the love of my life, I'm sure of it.

But sometimes it scares me how much you feel.

You know?

It's not something I ever thought I would... be scared of, but...

I may not be equipped to be loved this much.

I'll find another way.

No... I'll find another way.

Hey. I will.

I will love you however you're best equipped to handle it, Abby.

I will love you... on odd days of the week...

Baby, I will spend the rest of my life making your life better, not worse.

I want to dance.

I want to win.

I want that trophy.

Ah, what a gyp.

Come on.



One... Everybody.



♪ Deep inside I hope you feel it, too ♪

♪ Feel it, too ♪

♪ I'm the one who wants ♪

♪ I'm the one, whoa ♪ ♪ To be with you ♪

♪ Oh. ♪

We'd have to get a dog.


I mean, I want kids, too, but not yet.


Dog first. Small dog.


My parents died young; it makes me sad sometimes.

I know.

It'd probably make me a terrible mother.

I disagree, but... okay.

Mainly, my big thing is the dog.

Small dog.

I am totally on board with the dog idea.

Okay, I'll marry you.

Okay. Okay.

You want to meet my parents?




How are you?! Oh, my God, Abby!

Look at you!

Oh... Oh, you look beautiful!

How are you both? Great.

Everybody's good? Yeah.

Hey, buddy boy. Hey, Pop.

Look at you! How are you, man?

Good. Oh, my...

You're positively... Revolting.

No! Stop. No. Yeah. And gassy.

You popped. She is, Mom. She's really gassy.

That means it's gonna be a boy. Really?

Yeah. I practically needed a hazmat suit when your mother was pregnant with you.

Stop that!

It's true. Farts mean it's a boy!

That almost makes them worth it.

Anything happening down there?

Linda, I'm afraid to ask, but did you make that...

Meat loaf is coming out of the oven right now.

Oh, yeah! I have never craved anything like this in my life. Lead me to that meat loaf and...

I hate fucking meat loaf.

...and backhanded compliment me all day long.

I'm just grateful she didn't burn down the fucking kitchen.

What'd you do to get the foot unstuck from the... You just push.

I'm not a big fan of, like, when the face goes like this...

Dog dishes.

...against the outside of the belly.

It's like an alien. How do you know it's the face?

Looks like an alien. You actually see the face?

I'm pretty sure it's a face. No, I don't... that's creepy.

Is it possible that it's clawing out?

This is... Mom.

You're aware that the baby's not gonna actually live with you guys, right? I got a little carried away.

This one's very cute. Sue me.

Isn't that cute? Yes.

You better eat some of this before she gets it all.

Okay. Baby clothes, baby jumpers.

Tell me something, what the hell's a baby jumper for, anyway?

Why does a baby need to jump?

All I know is I spend all day breaking down the goddamn Amazon boxes.

Oh, shush, you.

Here, honey, a little bit more. Come on.

He's good. He's good.

Ay. Ay-yi-yi. There's two, there's two of me.

Oh. Oh, piggy-wiggy.

I can't believe I'm gonna be a grandma!

I still can't believe it.

All right, settle down. Still can't believe it.

Abby? Mm-hmm?

Don't take this the wrong way.

Oh, here it comes. Yep.

But, selfishly speaking, I'm just so glad your parents are dead.

And... boom. Oh, stop it.

Abby knows what I mean.

Really, yeah? She does? You do?

She's gonna explain.

What I mean is... all I ever wanted was for Will to marry a woman with dead parents, so I wouldn't have to share the grandchildren, and, and he did.

I mean, my prayer came true.

Jesus Christ, Mom!

It's okay! She knows what I mean.

Hey, Abby, by the way... Mm.

...did you get a look at that book I sent you yet?


It's really good. It's about preschool and anxiety separation. Oh, good.

That feels like a first priority thing.

'Cause when you...

Sorry, I will, I will admit. I admit, I'm sorry.

Just talk about her dead parents again, Mom.

Thank you.

It's about separation anxiety. Yeah.

So when you drop 'em off at preschool for the first day...

...and they, they go nuts and they go limp.

Yeah. Live your own life!

Mind your own fucking... Shush. Shush.

When you drop the kid off at preschool, if they get hysterical and inconsolable...

Both Abby's parents died in a car accident when she was a little girl.

Abby was in the car. She was seven.


"Okay" seems kind of like a strange response to that new information.

Well, I was caught a little off guard.

You don't talk about Abby a lot.

You don't ask about her a lot.

Will, I ask about her constantly.

Tomato, potato.

Tomato, to-mah-to.

Let's just call the whole thing off.

Well, the sessions are mandated, so...

No. Uh, the...

...the song, the... What? I... I'm not following.

Oh, my God, this is some kind of rhythm we have, huh, Doc?

Maybe this is why I can't jerk off to you.

Sorry, that was very inappropriate.

I was institutionalized.

Why don't you just tell me about Abby.

What, what was she like? I'd like to hear about her.

You want me to tell you about Abby?

Well, then you've come to the right place, Doc, because I am the foremost expert on all things Abby.

Or... I was.

No, I still am.

I mean, it's not like somebody else has learned more about her in the last six months.

Or I guess somebody could have.

I mean... I've been locked away and Lord knows what she's been up to, wherever she is.

Will? Right.

You want to know about Abby.

Let me tell you about Abby.

You got it. Last one. Last one.

Abby Lesher was born June 30, 1985.

Legend has it that, when she was born, she didn't make a single peep.

For five minutes, little Abby just laid there taking in the world around her, not so much as a single cry. Hi.

In the years to come, her parents would always say, "There wasn't anything wrong with little Abby."

She just didn't have anything to say yet."

Now keep in mind, I'm getting all this secondhand.

I've never met any of the people here, except for Abby.

Her parents died pretty soon.

Long before I come into the picture.

No, I know. And it's not like I know the doctor or the nurses here.

Why would I? Right.

Please continue, Will.


By all accounts, Abby's childhood was a happy one.

Family, I've gathered you here today 'cause I, I need to talk about something very serious, so no laughing.

Uh, as you may have noticed, I... have developed a bit of a drinking problem.

Her parents, Jack and Elizabeth, were kindhearted and openhearted and all the other kinds of "hearted."

They were literally both elementary school teachers.

That's actually how they, how they met.

Mind if I sit?

If Abby's mother knew that she would meet her future husband at exactly that moment, you think she would have taken such a big old bite of that peanut butter and jelly sandwich?


Would you like some water? Mm.

Wow. You fit half the sandwich in your mouth.

So strange to think about.

How a completely random moment involving peanut butter, a moment that happened way before I was born, would shape my entire life.

Are you glad it happened?

Ah, well, Dr. Morris, that is the big question.

Isn't it? Because if it hadn't happened, Abby's parents would never have met.

They'd never have married, they'd never have honeymooned in Aruba where they conceived Abby.

They'd never have seen her come into the world without a peep.

They'd never have watched her blonde hair turn brown as she got older.

They'd never have watched her become obsessed with dancing and then soccer and then horses and, of course, Christmas.

Always Christmas.

The lights, the gifts, and above all, the Rockettes.

So obsessed with the Rockettes was Abby that every year, every single year, her parents would have to drive her into town to watch the Rockettes perform.

Every single year, except that one year...

Abby's parents died instantly.

Abby was trapped in the backseat of the car with them for over an hour before they got her out.

Her father...

...her father was decapitated by the steering column.

I know, right?

That's the detail that always gets everybody.

I mean, the story in and of itself is tragic of course, but when you give someone that image, that singular image of a seven year old girl trapped in the backseat of a car with her decapitated father, well, then it really just lands, doesn't it?

Anyhoo, you wanted to know about Abby, so...

I'll continue, but be forewarned, her next decade isn't so great.

Abby's parents didn't plan on dying together, so there was no will and there was no plan for Abby.

And seeing as all her grandparents were deceased, Abby's Uncle Joe got custody.

Now, Uncle Joe wasn't a nice man.

And when I say he wasn't a nice man, I don't mean like he didn't hug her.

I mean, he bought her a puppy and then he killed it when it chewed up his couch.

I mean, he sporadically molested her for the better part of six years, until, at 15 years old, Abby borrowed a gun from some wannabe gangbanger from her high school, she pointed it at Uncle Joe's head and said in no uncertain terms...

I'll fucking kill you if you ever touch me again.

And then she shot him in the knee, so he knew she wasn't playing.

Fuck! Ow!

It's like a movie, right?

I always pictured a young Natalie Portman playing her.

I don't know who that is.

You don't know who Natalie Portman is?

No. Doc, you got to get out more.

Yeah, I'm sure you're right.

I'll tell you what.

One of these nights, we'll do, like, a marathon of early Portman.

Beautiful Girls, The Professional.

You'll see what I'm talking about.

Okay? Okay.


Okay, well, uh... well, things got better from there.

Obviously, damage had been done.

Decapitated father, molesting uncle, you don't just, like, bounce back from that shit, but...

Abby was smart, determined, a dreamer, a reader.

She hunkered down, she got herself into college, started seeing a therapist on campus who truly changed her life.

She even made a very close friend.

You're gonna get me kicked out.

Could you please stop?

I'm so sorry.

Oh, my God, Doc, look. Oh, my God.



Look at me. This is what I looked like in college.

I have 491 more pages.

Oh, my God, look how young I look.

No, no, I think you look very much the same.

Oh, well, I think I look like a completely different person.

Yeah, tomato, to-mah-to.

Doc, look at us.

Maybe we have a chance after all.


Anyway, Abby really came into her own in college.

My aim.

She engaged in the outside world, she became extremely popular, she even fell in love.

Not to toot my own horn, but toot, toot!

She graduated top of her class with an English lit degree.

Yeah, she wrote her thesis on...

The Unreliable Narrator!

The Unreliable Narrator.

What's that? My thesis.

Hey, guys, what's up?

Unreliable narrators are considered a device, right?

Don't answer. They are. They are.

And they don't get a lot of literary analysis because it's a gimmick, it's a trick.

I mean, "Canterbury Tales" gets a, gets a shout-out because, you know, it's good, but then typically, it's used for popcorn crime novels and thriller movies, like Agatha Christie, Usual Suspects, so on and so forth. Right.

But I'm gonna argue that every narrator, by its very definition, is unreliable.

Because when you tell a story, there's always an essential distance between the story itself and the telling of said story, right?

So, therefore, every story that has ever been told has an unreliable narrator.

The only truly reliable narrator would be someone hypothetically telling a story that unfolds before our very eyes, which is obviously impossible.

So, what does that tell us?

That the only truly reliable narrator is life itself.

But life itself is also a completely unreliable narrator because it is constantly misdirecting and misleading us and taking us on this journey where it is literally impossible to predict where it's gonna go next.

And that is my thesis!

Life as the ultimate unreliable narrator.

What do you think? Yeah.

It'll make more sense when I write it. I love you.

Bye, guys.

I love you.

You're up. I love her, Chuck.

Yeah. Come on.

Holy shit. Your turn.

I love you, Abby!

Hey, before, when I invited you over to watch Natalie Portman movies, you know I was just being funny, right?

Yes, I do. Okay.

'Cause I'm still married, so...

At least I think I am.

I mean, I haven't signed any papers or anything yet, so I don't really know how the whole thing works.

Will, it's fine. Okay?

Take a deep breath.

And you can tell me about your marriage now.

You want me to tell you about my marriage?


So, you haven't, you haven't really been listening to me, then, because... it doesn't matter what I tell you, don't you...

I don't... Why can't you lean into this just one fucking time? You see that, right?

Doesn't matter what I say, 'cause I could tell you every detail about our marriage.

I could tell you every detail about the day that she left me, but... why, why would my memory even be remotely accurate?

I'm going through a phase! Yeah, but why do I have to listen... And I'm asking you, just...

Maybe... maybe I'd actually been smothering her for years.

No. Stop. Smothering her with my love and my dreams and a baby that she wasn't ready for.

Crushed him.

Maybe I was just another guy that was in her life that seemed like I was gonna save it, but really I was just there to ruin it.

Maybe she was really unhappy and this dream girl that I created in my mind's eye was just like a narrative trick, to get us through a life, you know?

I mean, this is really some deep philosophical shit we're talking about here.

Yes, it is. It is.


we've been seeing each other for a while now.

And today, you're talking about Abby a lot for the first time.

And it's good.

It's really good.

So, tell me about that day.

You had a nice morning with Abby...

No, no. ...talking about Bob Dylan.

I didn't. I didn't. That's not what I fucking said.

I just said that it may not have been a nice morning.

Okay. I said that it could've been a smothering, horrible morning.

Okay. It could've been a smothering, horrible morning.

You talked about Bob Dylan, then you went over to your parents' house for lunch, and then what happened?

Then she just left me. Then she just left me.

Will, she didn't just leave you.

She just left. Yes, she did.

Have you seen Abby since you've been released, Will?

Come back to me, Abby.

Please come back to me. I'll, I'll do anything.

Will? Just give me another chance.


I'm talking to my fucking wife!

But your wife wasn't there, was she?

I don't know. What am I doing? What are you doing?

Will...'re not well yet.

Okay? You're mixing meds.

You're, you're not yourself.

Tell me about that day.

We talked about Bob Dylan.


We laughed.


Go ahead.

We almost crushed the dog.


We went to my parents' house.


We ate meat loaf.

Oh, my God, my mom's crazy.

She's totally fucking nuts. She is.

We're never gonna do that again.

Oh, gosh.

How you feeling, my love? I ate too much.

You think? Just a little bit.

You freakin' ate the gross national meat loaf product of a small nation.

I think we might have a meat loaf instead of a human baby.

You're giving birth to meat loaf?

Yeah, we're having meat loaf.

Cab? No.

Walk it off? Yes, please.

All right, let's walk it off.

My heart's on fire.

Not in a good way.

The baby's a girl, Will.


I know we weren't gonna find out, but then the nurse slipped up, and now I feel shitty knowing.

In about three weeks, you're gonna have a daughter.

Say something.


I know what you want to name her.

Yeah? Yeah.

Yeah, I think so.

I know you don't like his music, but...

I love it.

Big fan.

I think it's cute. I think it's...

I was smothering her. I was smothering her.

That's why she left me.

Will, listen, you suffered a trauma.

It was horrific.

Can you fucking help me?! Horrific.

Help me, please!

You thought about killing yourself.

You... you were in treatment for months to keep you safe.

And now you're, you're constructing a story that somehow makes it bearable.

Will... you have a baby.

All right?

Your baby lived.

For whatever reason, miraculously, she's alive.

Now, Will, wouldn't Abby want you to be there for that child?

Now, why haven't you gone to your parents'?

Will, look at me.

Why haven't you seen that baby?

I think it would help you.

Okay. That's why you're out, and that's why you're seeing me, to get you there.

I, I think you're ready.


I'm gonna go.

No, hang on, Will. Will, hang on.

No, I don't want you to leave yet. Let's...

That's not the right story. No.

I'm not really the hero of the story.

This is, trauma is vicious, Will.

I'm sorry. You're very nice.

You're very nice.

I don't want to be here anymore.

Look, just sit down. We can...

Let me talk you through this.


♪ When the rain is blowing in your face ♪

♪ And the whole world is on your case ♪

♪ I could offer you a warm embrace ♪

♪ To make you feel my love ♪ To say Dylan Dempsey's childhood was marked by death and tragedy would be the grossest of understatements, and also a little bit douchey.

She was literally born of death and tragedy.

Six months into her little life, her father started locking in the pattern.

And that was just the start.

Dylan lost her grandma when she was six.

♪ The storms are raging on the rolling sea ♪

♪ And on the highway of regret ♪ And her best friend when she was seven.

♪ The winds of change are blowing wild and free ♪

♪ You ain't seen nothing like me yet. ♪ Tell them I'm nice.

Come in.

How you feeling, kiddo?

I feel like my whole life is gonna be marked by death and tragedy.

She did not say this, of course, but if she could verbalize what she was feeling at eight years old, she would've.

I crave a happy life, Grandpa.

I have a almost desperate craving for stability and happiness, the way fat people crave chocolate or lost hikers crave rescue.

I want to live a big, great, fantastical life, but I'm concerned that the tragedy that seems to follow me, the tragedy that birthed me will prevent that from ever happening.

And I don't know if I can withstand another body blow like this.

But what she really said was...

How you feeling, kiddo?

Are you gonna die, Grandpa?

Yes. I am.

Probably sooner than you'd like, kiddo... if I'm being honest.

I'm gonna fight like hell to stick around for you as long as possible, to prevent one more death from coming anywhere near your doorstep.

I'm gonna get on the fucking treadmill, cut back on the red meat.

I'm gonna do my best.

Get you through your teenage years without losing one more goddamn thing.

Gonna do it for your mother and father.

I'm gonna do it for your grandmother.

Most of all, I'm gonna do it for you, granddaughter.

I'm gonna squeeze out ten more years from this decrepit old body, for you, my girl.

My angel.

Again, Irwin expressed this all with...

No. No more dying around here, kiddo.

Okay? Okay.

The Dylan Dempsey transformation years.

The years brought puberty.

Puberty brought sexuality.

Sexuality brought anger and fear and confusion.

And when the smoke cleared, where that sweet little girl once stood, there remained only a woman who scared the absolute shit out of everyone.

♪ You took a part of me that I really miss ♪

♪ I keep asking myself how long it can go on like this ♪

♪ You told yourself a lie ♪

♪ That's all right, mama, I told myself one, too... ♪

Come in.

♪ Still a million miles from you. ♪ Hey.

Hey. I'm going out.

With who?

Just with some friends.


Grandma used to say it's a nasty habit of people lighting little fires under their noses.


You aren't even gonna try and hide them from me?

Aren't we both better than that?

I don't know.

You hear Vermont's made them illegal?

Remind me never to go to Vermont.

Can I have one? No.

Just one?

No, these things will kill you.

Was hoping we could talk about college.

We talked about it last night.

Didn't get very far. Yes, we did.

We just didn't get where you wanted it to go.

I'm 21, Irwin. Give up on the dream.

I've almost saved enough to get out of your hair.

I promise.

Promise you'll be home by 11:00?

I'd rather not lie to you.

Please lie to me. I'll be home by 11:00.


Happy 21st, kiddo.

Some sugar.



Hey. Hey, everyone.

We're PB&J.



Uh, this first song is kind of personal.


My mom died 21 years ago today, and...

Take it off!

They tell me she used to listen to Bob Dylan.

Show us your tits!


♪ When the rain is blowing in your face ♪

♪ And the whole world is on your case ♪

♪ I can offer you a warm embrace ♪

♪ To make you feel my love ♪

♪ When the evening shadows and the stars appear ♪

♪ And there is no one there to dry your tears ♪

♪ I could hold you for a million years ♪

♪ To make you feel my love ♪

♪ I know you haven't made your mind up yet ♪

♪ But I would never do you wrong ♪

♪ I've known it from the moment that we met ♪

♪ There's no doubt in my mind where you belong ♪

♪ I'd go hungry, I'd go black and blue ♪

♪ I'd go crawling down the avenue ♪

♪ No, there's nothing that I wouldn't do ♪

♪ To make you feel my love. ♪

Oh, shit. Oh, shit.


What the fuck?


Hey, you owe me a new phone, bitch.

Yeah. You're right, I'm sorry.

That, uh... I shouldn't have done that.

Uh, it's just been a really weird day for me.


Let me see what I have on me. Can you hold that a second?

I'm so, so sorry.

You think that's funny? You fucking filming me?!


I'm fine. I'm fine!

I'm fine.

The baby's a girl, Will.


I know we weren't gonna find out, but then the nurse slipped up, and now I feel shitty knowing.

In about three weeks, you're gonna have a daughter.

Actually, Daddy's gonna blow his brains out before he even meets me, so...

Say something.

I know what you want to name her.

I know you don't like his music...

Might want to look to your right, lady.

I love it.

Big fan. Mom.

I think it's pretty cute. I think it's gonna be...

Mom, Mom, look out!

Are you okay?

Does it matter?

If Rodrigo Gonzalez had really been there that night, he might have told the stoned young woman sitting in front of him that it mattered quite a bit to him that Dylan Dempsey was okay.

Bueno. Bueno. Hombre.

No, sir. No, right.

No, señor.

Ay, ay ay.

At exactly this moment, a mere 4,000 miles away, Abby Dempsey, then Abby Lesher, had just finished the first draft of her college thesis.

"But life itself proves to be

"the most unreliable of narrators, "forever taking us on a journey

"where it is impossible to predict what might happen next. Life its..."

Okay. This next part gets a little flowery...

Read, woman.

I know, but I feel like it's getting away from literary crit... Read!

Life itself tricks us.

It misleads us.

It paints one man a hero when he may well be a villain.

Hero or villain?

Villain or hero?

Or maybe neither.

Maybe life is playing the role of unreliable trickster yet again.

Maybe those it paints as the heroes and villains of our stories are actually just day players in a much bigger movie.

Maybe they're simply extras, filling the frames so the real heroes can have bodies crossing in the background.

And then it sort of says that over and over again...


...are so much smarter than me.

I really am, aren't I?

Abby's thesis was a total disaster.

Her favorite and most trusted professor argued, as she feared he might, that she had strayed from literary criticism and had veered into an unwieldy cross of creative writing and 17th-century French philosophy.

Then Abby's favorite and most trusted professor tried to fuck her.

Which, one might argue, proved Abby's thesis after all.

A continent away, Javier González was worried about none of this.

Javier González didn't philosophize and he never wondered what life had in store for him.

Javier González knew where he was going.

He'd known all along.


Isabel Diaz had been taught from birth to expect a very average life.

She was one of six sisters and was openly considered to be the fourth prettiest.



No, no.



Y... Y tres!


Isabel could no longer remember when Mr. Saccione first started coming over to visit Rodrigo.

She only knew that the visits had become more consistent, usually in the middle of the day, always when Javier was in the fields.

Si, si. No, no, no.


Javier González was a simple man, but not a stupid one.

And that day, he began doing something he'd never done before: planning a family vacation.

To a place that he had just learned his son desperately wanted to visit with someone else.

Hello. Hola.

Hola. Hola.

Hola. Hola.

Hey, little guy. Look.

Where'd it go? Look.

Whoa. There it is.

Where are you from?

A pregnant woman eviscerated by a bus.

A grown man weeping desperately.

Bystanders screaming.

It was only about 20 seconds of footage, but it would replay on a loop in little Rodrigo González's brain for years to come.




No! Rigo.


Months passed.

Mr. Saccione's visits were no longer restricted.

His gifts no longer withheld.


Ooh. Hola, Oli.

And now, in English.

My name is...



But I like to be called Rod.

Or Rigo. Yeah.


I am from Spain.

Keep going.

I was sad for a long time.

But my uncle got me a bird, which helps.


If we've learned anything by now, it's not to get attached to new heroes.

They tend to disappoint.

But damn if little Rodrigo González didn't look like the real deal.


Ay, ay, ay!


Rodrigo entered college a visiting freshman, and as he'd been doing for most of the previous decade, he thrived.

He lettered in two sports.

...proportional to the ratio...

His marks were at the very top of his class.

He even embarked on a relationship with a 20-something from Long Island named Shari Dickstein.

She made him laugh... usually not intentionally.

Oh, my God. You've never been to Whole Foods?

No. But what is that? Okay, I'll take you there.

It's like a dream. It's like a...

She wasn't his great love, but she was company.

And great love wasn't his priority at the moment.

...clean eating, vegan dream.

What's-what's vegan?

Oh, my God, you're adorable.

I love that you don't know things.

He saved every dollar, coveted every vacation.

Rodrigo González had an internal compass, and it always pointed in the same direction.

En Nueva York? Si.

Shari? Shari.

Shari Distin.

Shari Dickstein.

No. Si. Si, si, si.

Like so many of the biggest years of our lives, it flew by.

But in truth, that year was just a setup, a preamble to the biggest day of Rodrigo González's life.

Where are you going?

I'm just going for a quick run.

Miarma. Huh?

When we first started dating, you used to call me "Miarma."

You would've said, "Just going for a quick run, Miarma."

It always made me feel like Kelly Ripa.


I'm pregnant.

I know. Obvi, lots to talk about.

Hey, will you take me for brunch?

There's this place I really want to try.

It's Vietnamese, which I'm assuming is kind of like dim sum or something.

We can talk at brunch, at the Vietnamese place.

I really want to try it.

So, I just started feeling shitty a few weeks ago.

I thought I was just getting a really bad period.

Ever since I got off the pill, I have been having bananas periods, you know?

But it wasn't stopping, so I went to my gyno, and he was like, "Are you sexually active?"

So I told him about you, and then he did the test thing and blammo!

I hadn't even thought to try an at-home test.

For whatever reason, my brain did not go there whatso-fucking-ever.

Anyways, I know that we haven't been together very long, and clearly this is as "what the fuck" as things get.

I mean, I don't know what your deal is with religious stuff, but I'm thinking that I should probably just get an abortion.

Are you, like, are you, like, super against that? Abortion?

I know abortion's a really big deal for Christians.

There should, like, be, like, a pill or something for something like this, like, unplanned pregnancy.

'Cause if you're Christian, I'm...

Anyhow, we don't have to decide any of this right now, but I would like to make the call early, just before the thing has, like, a head and stuff, you know?

Oh, hey, there we are!

So, the way I see it, we have, like, three options.

Option one: we have it.

I mean, a mixed-race baby with our skin complexions would be amazeballs.

My family have batshit money, so we could get nannies and stuff.

I don't know, it's probably a bad idea.

Option two: abort. But again, I would like to make that call sooner rather than later.

Or option three: we can just both agree that this is all an insane April Fools' joke!



April Fools', bitch!

Wh-What is that?

Seriously? You don't know April Fools'?

No, I don't.

Well, I didn't know that.

So there is no baby?

Dude! Ew, no.

Of course not.

Oh, come on.

You have to admit, that was, that was pretty funny.


Oh, fuck.

You're gonna break up with me, aren't you?

He was.

Yes, I am. I'm-I'm sorry...

Obviously, nothing thus far had indicated that this would be the most important day of Rodrigo's life.


Sometimes the most important days of our lives begin, and we're not even there to see it.



Hola, Bella.

Mr. Saccione was a letter writer.

He always had been.

He believed in the power of the written word, the force of actually sitting down and writing to someone by hand.

And with that, Mr. Saccione's letters found a new recipient.

A man whose only request was that he be kept up to date on those he had abandoned but still cherished.

Hola, Bella.



When critics reviewed Abby Dempsey's favorite album, Bob Dylan's 1997 release, "Time Out of Mind," the song "Make You Feel My Love" was a source of much criticism.

Every track on the album brimmed with unrelenting melancholy and sadness.

But there, smack in the middle of it all, sat an unabashedly populist hit song, a love song... a song that in years to come would be covered by Garth Brooks, of all people.

Critics argued that putting an on-the-nose love song in the middle of an album about despair and tragedy was Dylan's only misstep.

Others argued that it was his point.

Are you okay?


My father, Rodrigo González, officially met my mother, Dylan Dempsey, that day... the most important day of his life.


They would not spend a single night apart for the next 42 years.

They would go on to have four children, seven grandchildren.

A love story for the ages.

My grandmother, Abby Dempsey, argued in her failed college thesis that life itself is our most unreliable narrator.

She argued that no one knows where their story is going, nor who the heroes in it are going to be.

And while it's true that life has often made it difficult to pinpoint the heroes of my family's story, my parents have always made it incredibly easy for me.

They found the one populist love song in our family's often very melancholy album.

Unlike my grandmother Abby, my grandmother Isabel was neither a writer nor a philosopher.

But sometimes I wonder if she didn't understand exactly what Bob Dylan was going for.

Spanish does not often translate perfectly, but what Isabel said to my father the day she sent him away, it required no translation.



Listen to me.

Rigo, you have had many ups and downs in your life.

Too many.

And you will have more.

This is life.

And this is what it does.

Life brings you to your knees.

It brings you lower than you think you can go.

But if you stand back up... and move forward... if you go just a little farther... you will always find love.

I found love in you.

And my life, my story, it will continue after I'm gone.

Because you are my story.

You are your father's story.

Your uncle's.

Rigo, my body fails me.

But you are me.

So you go now.

Give me a beautiful life.

The most beautiful life ever.


And if life brings us to our knees...

you stand us back up.

You get up.

And go farther.

And find us the love.

Will you do that?

I'm not sure whose story I have been telling.

I'm not sure if it is mine, or if it's some character's I have yet to meet.

I'm not sure of anything.

All I know is that, at any moment, life will surprise me.

It will bring me to my knees.

And when it does, I will remind myself...

I will remind myself that I am my father.

And I am my father's father.

I am my mother.

And I am my mother's mother.

And while it may be easy to wallow in the tragedies that shape our lives, and while it's natural to focus on those unspeakable moments that bring us to our knees, we must remind ourselves that if we get up, if we take the story a little bit farther...

If we go far enough, there's love.