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THE JOE IN OUR SOULS

Sherri Tran, BBA 2020

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The director of Gone Baby Gone, Ben Affleck, brings yet another criminal drama, Live by Night. Every second of its official trailer creates a sense of adrenaline, curiosity, and truth. Though taken place in the 1920s, many of the film’s aspects correlate with current society.

Young, thriving individuals as ourselves bear rich strong feelings and ideas; we wish to enhance the society we live in while seeking freedom and creating our mark. However, many fall from great heights of perfection-filled ideas and improvements to neglecting our own or society’s morals, taking any alternative courses necessary to achieve what we believe in. Desperate, we search for a false “heaven” in a harsh, real society; we are willing to propel ourselves or others in harm’s way, go against our initial beliefs, and neglect the law to fulfill our desires, whether it be retribution or revenge. Such actions come at an expensive price; “what you put into this world will always come back to you, [and] never how you predict.”

Though not as action-packed, we face the same struggles portrayed in Live by Night; a desire to justify our thoughts and actions, a sense of retribution or revenge for the justice we believe in, and a desire for freedom. However, such satisfaction and eliminating said struggles do not require breaking the rules, rather, “you have to be strong enough to make your own,” personally differentiate good from the bad, and have a strong, unwavering stance regarding others. Live by Night reflects such struggles, attempts of resolving said struggles, and a battle between the desired outcomes and personal and societal morals through the protagonist, Joe Coughlin.

One would say Joe lives in the gray area; he does not entirely conform to society’s rules nor is he entirely a scoundrel. Prior to the film’s events, he went to fight in the war, “[going] away a soldier, [returning] home an outlaw.” He fights for his own thoughts, beliefs, and morals: a neutral stance. His “sense of justice and open heart” entails him to refuse to work under certain gangsters, yet, simultaneously not cooperate with the authority.

Thus, he is vulnerable in life, as he has conceived sins while striving to “right the wrongs committed against him and those close to him.” Traveling through an uncertain path to attain similar goals as our own, should we sympathize with or criticize Joe for his actions? Do we find Joe Coughlin within ourselves, someone who prioritizes their own personal objective over society’s morals? May Live by Night bring you your answer.

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