Defending Your  Life Movie Explained

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Written By Mohateasam Pavel


Today I will explain to you a comedy, and fantasy film from 1991, titled Defending Your  Life.


Spoilers ahead!

  It’s another normal day in Los Angeles and advertising executive Daniel Miller is spending his thirty-ninth birthday alone, driving the new car he just gifted himself. Unfortunately,   this celebration doesn’t end well when he gets distracted and ends up crashing against a bus.   Then, he wakes up in a Purgatory-like area where he and a large group of people, mainly made up of the elderly, are put in trams and sent to Judgment  City, which looks like the western half of the USA   on purpose because that’s where today’s arrivals are from.

There are plenty of activities for them to enjoy for the next five days, all of them for free.

What is also free is the hotel they’ll be staying at. Daniel is given his own room with all the basic necessities, and after the employees promise him he’ll get explanations in the morning,  he falls asleep as soon as he crashes on the bed.

The next day, Daniel is woken up by a phone call from Bob Diamond, his new defense attorney.   Bob asks Daniel to come to see him so they can talk about what’s going on, and gives him a very interesting tip: he’s allowed to eat all he wants because he can’t gain weight here.   Daniel takes a shower and watches some tv before going downstairs to have breakfast, wearing the same tunic as all the other arrivals. He orders an omelet and a glass of orange juice, which arrive as soon as he’s done talking and taste better  than anything Daniel had ever tried in his life.   However, he barely gets to take a bite before he’s  reminded that the trams will be leaving soon and   it wouldn’t look good on him if he was late for  his appointment. After spending the ride talking   to an old lady about the ways they died and the dogs they left behind, Daniel makes it to Bob’s   office, who proceeds to explain it all. People  live through multiple lifetimes, and after each   one, there’s an examining period, which Daniel  is in right now.

These lifetimes are recorded   from beginning to end, so a pair of judges examine them and decide if the soul is ready to move into   the next lifetime or must go back to Earth to try  again. Speaking of Earth, everyone there only uses   three to five percent of their brains, which is  why people like Bob call them Little Brains. As   you advance through lifetimes, you get smarter –  for example, Bob uses forty-eight percent of his   brain. In the beginning though, that three percent  means people make decisions based on fears,   so to pass the examination, Daniel must prove that  he’s conquered enough fears during his lifetime.   Bob will be there with him as his defense  attorney, helping him make a case, choosing which   memories to show the judges, and going against the  prosecutor, who works for the Universe itself and   must keep it working properly.

While Bob was on  Earth six times before he got to move forward,   Daniel has already been twenty times, but Bob  tells him not to worry because some people don’t   get it right until try one hundred. Daniel’s  trial will last four days, during which they’ll   look at nine memories of his life.

Afterward,  Daniel and Bob go to have lunch together,   and Bob tells him a bit more about how this place  works. Children don’t have to defend themselves,   they automatically move forward; and teenagers  are too much trouble so they don’t even bother   and send them somewhere else. Bob also shares  some of his food, which tastes awful to Daniel   because he still isn’t smart enough to manipulate  his senses. Later, Daniel decides to spend his   evening watching a stand-up comedian at the local  theatre, but the man isn’t making anyone laugh.  

Daniel notices a beautiful blonde woman in  the audience, who looks pretty bored with   the comedian’s bad jokes. But when Daniel throws  a jab at the comedian and makes everyone laugh,   the blonde woman comes to sit with him at his  table. The woman’s name is Julia and she thinks   she’s met Daniel before, a weird feeling that  Daniel shares about her. The two of them quickly   hit it off and leave the terrible show to go for a  walk, during which they bond while chatting about   various topics. Daniel is divorced and doesn’t  have any kids, and while Julia is also divorced,   she does have two children.

Her trial, however,  will only look at four of her memories. A few   hours later, Daniel walks Julia back to her hotel,  which is way fancier than the one he’s staying at,   and they agree to talk on the phone the next day,  since they can’t see each other because Julia   will be going to a party with her lawyer. The  following day, Daniel meets with Bob, and they go   to the office where the trial will be held. There  they meet the judges and prosecutor Lena Foster,   who is infamous for being an extremely ruthless  opponent. She is the one to choose the first   memory they’ll be examining, which appears on a  big screen in the room: it shows Daniel as a kid,   being bullied in the playground and doing  nothing to defend himself.

Lena calls him a   coward for that, and Daniel tries to explain it  hadn’t been fear, just frustration. Bob cuts in   to help and chooses another memory, this one of  Daniel as a baby watching his parents fight. His   dad had been about to hit his mom, but he stopped  himself just in time when he saw the baby crying.   Bob argues that this has taught Daniel the  meaning of restraint, and it was restraint that   he showed on the playground, not fear. Next, Bob  presents another memory from middle school. In it,   Daniel gives his art supplies to a classmate  that would get expelled for stealing again,   so when the teacher discovered them, Daniel  was the one to get in trouble. However,   Lena answers by playing another memory from the  same day a few hours later: when Daniel’s dad   scolded him for what happened, Daniel felt under  pressure and quickly gave in, confessing the truth   about the supplies. Bob thinks the act itself had  been courageous regardless of what happened later,   but Lena argues this later development erases  the meaning and brings fear back on the table.  

This is all for today, so after saying goodbye  to Bob, Daniel goes to have dinner at a Japanese   restaurant where he meets another man that died  young and will have fifteen memories examined.   By the time he returns to the hotel, Julia  had already called and left a message before   going to bed saying that she misses him and that  they can meet the following day. The next day,   Daniel is shocked to find Bob couldn’t make it  and his substitute attorney is Dick Stanley,   who is very friendly with Lena, unlike Bob who  hated her. Daniel feels he’s at disadvantage,   but the judges start the trial anyway.  Lena begins showing a memory of Daniel as a   twenty-four-year-old man that has been working for  a while and saved ten thousand dollars to invest.   A friend from college had given Daniel a tip to  invest in Casio, but Daniel refused because the   company hadn’t been doing well back then. Nowadays  though, Casio is a very successful business, and   those ten thousand could’ve become thirty-seven  million. Instead, he invested in cattle that ended   up dead. Daniel complains that they’re passing  judgment based on money, which Lena denies:   it’s about the decisions he’s chosen in his life. 

Dick stays silent though, and lets Daniel do the   talking. Since he won’t show a memory to counter  Lena’s either, she proceeds to show another one   for her side of the case. This memory shows adult  Daniel as a married man asking his wife to help   him practice for an incoming interview because  he wants to ask for a high salary and he needs   courage to do so. However, when the time for  the interview comes, Daniel accepts the first   low salary he’s offered as soon as he arrives.  Lena says this is another solid proof of fear,   and Daniel barely gets to defend himself before  she plays a montage of a bunch of small mistakes   that Lena claims are a good way of judging  Daniel’s poor judgment process. Without a word   from Dick to help him, Daniel leaves the trial in  a bad mood, but he begins feeling better as soon   as he finds Julia, who also just finished her  examination for the day. They decide to visit   the Pavilion of Past Lives, which is a special  attraction that shows you five of your past lives.   Daniel is weirded out when he discovers he  used to be a Native American in the wild,   but Julia is incredibly happy about how different  her lives had been, including Prince Valiant and   a whaler.

Afterward, they take the tram to the  mini-golf course, chatting about how much better   they always feel when they see each other and  how they can’t take the other out of their minds.   While playing golf, Julia finally confesses how  she died, which is very embarrassing: she simply   tripped, fell, and hit her head. After spending a  lovely evening together, Daniel drops off Julia at   her hotel, where she invites him to come to her  examination the next day if he finishes early.   It’s hard for them to say goodbye though, and they  end up kissing. The following morning, Daniel is   glad to see Bob is back, even if he arrives late.  Apparently he spent the previous day trapped near   the inner circle of thought, but he refuses to  explain what that was. The trial begins and Lena   presents a memory of Daniel not wanting to get on  a stage to give a speech representing the company   he worked for. His coworker pushed him onto the  stage anyway and Daniel froze, but luckily he   was saved from potential embarrassment when the  building got evacuated because of a gas leak.   Bob tries to argue that getting on the stage is  a sign of courage, but Lena denies it, reminding   the judges that Daniel was forced onto the stage  and didn’t utter a word – in fact, he never even   tried to speak in public again. Next, Bob shows a  memory of Daniel having an accident while driving   a snowmobile in the mountains – he fell and broke  his leg, so he had to drag his body through the   snow for two miles. Lena argues self-preservation  isn’t real courage and points out that just like   it happened with the speech, Daniel never tried  again because of fear. Daniel quickly denies this   and explains he never tried riding a snowmobile  again because the whole experience had already   been awful even before the accident, he just  didn’t like that particular sport. The judges   seem to like the way Daniel defends himself,  so he leaves the room in a good mood. Since   they finished quickly today, he goes to Julia’s  examination and arrives just in time to watch a   memory of her saving her kids and the cat from a  fire in their house. Now Daniel feels inadequate   next to her, but he still wants to spend time  together. They decide to have dinner at a   famous Italian restaurant, where they ask for two  humongous plates of food. The food is delicious   and their conversation is fun as always, but  two things make Daniel extremely nervous. First,   the waiter makes a judgmental noise when he hears  Daniel is having nine moments examined during the   trial. And second, Lena arrives to have dinner in  the same restaurant as them, watching Daniel and   his embarrassing behavior towards the waiter  from a few tables over. When dinner is over,   Daniel walks Julia to her hotel, where she asks  him to spend the night with her.

She may look like   she’s got it all together, but she doesn’t, she’s  always putting too much work into everything.   Being with Daniel is effortless though, and Julia  wants to spend their last night here together   because they don’t know if they’ll be able to  leave together too. Daniel wants to stay but still   turns her down, believing he shouldn’t – Julia is  more to him than a one-night stand and he doesn’t   want to ruin their relationship, which has already  been more amazing than any night he’s spent with   any woman in his life. Julia tells him she loves  him and the couple kiss before Daniel leaves.  

During the tram ride, he has a lot to think  about, so as soon as he makes it to the hotel,   Daniel calls Julia. Her hotel’s receptionist  picks up and tells him Julia has put up a “do   not disturb” sign, which means she can’t be sent  any calls, so Daniel leaves her a simple message:   he loves her more than life itself, he never  met anyone like her, and he’ll miss her forever.   The next day is the final examination. Bob  presents a memory of Daniel in his thirties   after his divorce, taking an impulse decision  for the sake of his own happiness: instead of   cashing in the ticket from a canceled trip with  his wife, he decided to go anyway. Not only that,   he decided to use one-third of his life savings to  change it to first class.

Bob thinks this takes a   lot of guts and tells the judges Daniel is ready to pass on his next lifetime. Lena doesn’t argue against any of this, but she does present  her final memory, which has been taken here in Judgment City: it’s from last night, showing  Daniel turning down Julia because he was scared.  

Feeling bad about it, Daniel admits he had been  afraid, but Bob comes to the rescue and explains   it had been thoughtfulness, a way of caring for  Julia’s feelings. Daniel agrees with this and   promises he’ll work as hard as he can in his next  life if they grant it to him. The examination is   done, so thirty minutes later, Bob and Daniel go  to Bob’s office to see what the final judgment is:   sadly, Daniel must return to Earth. Bob reminds  him that going back doesn’t mean they’re right,   and Daniel won’t remember anything of this when he  goes back, so he won’t be upset for long: he just   needs to follow his heart and take opportunities  when he can. Moments later, Daniel is on the tram   that will take him back to Earth and sees Julia  in a different car that is taking her to her new   lifetime. Remembering Bob’s words, Daniel takes a  risk and force-opens the doors of the tram to jump   out of it and go after the love of his life. After  dodging a few vehicles, Daniel jumps on Julia’s   tram, screaming that he loves her while repeatedly  being electrocuted by the tram’s security system   but still holding on.

All this is being watched by  the judges, Lena and Bob, who convinces them this   is proof enough that Daniel is brave. The judges  change their opinion and send an order to open   the tram, which allows Daniel to get in and join  Julia in traveling to a new lifetime together.

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