A few weeks ago I went to see Lynne Ramsay’s new film You Were Never Really Here at the Sydney Film Festival. The movie knocked me for six. I was spellbound by Joaquin Phoenix’s performance and spent so much time daydreaming about his backstory for weeks after. There was a simplicity to the plot that felt so refreshing and I wanted to get to the bottom of its conception.
Enter Jonathan Ames — a jack of all trades that has eluded my attention until now. Born and raised in New Jersey, Ames was a troubled young man who abused the drink and was known to settle confrontations with his fists. Admitting himself into Alcoholics Anonymous in his early twenties, he soon discovered that his painful confessions left the room in stitches. In that moment the penny dropped; he would turn his pain into art.
Ames has enjoyed a versatile career — anything to keep the lights on as he tells it. He is a former columnist, raconteur (skip to 31 minutes) and author of nine books including a graphic novel that has since been adapted into the HBO television series Bored To Death (of which he was the show runner). As Ames likes to tell his students (yes, he teaches too) "the more you put into the world, the more you get back."
I finished the book on which the movie is based this weekend and was bowled over at its simplicity. I loved his immersive storytelling, the depth of his characters leaping right off the page. It's not just his fearlessness that captivates me. It's his glass-half-full approach to life that reminds me that the walls that surround us are not set in stone. Should we wish we can demolish, renovate or simply paint them a different colour.