Benjamin Tyler, closing in on his 30th birthday, is living a banal, but financially comfortable life working as an English teacher at a Toronto elementary school. Though a bit shy, Ben is handsome, well educated, and has excellent social skills. He comes from a loving family and, after years of putting it off, he has finally gotten engaged to his beautiful fiancée, Samantha. From all outward appearances, Ben seems to be doing just fine. However, below this veneer of accomplishment, Ben is keenly aware that he has become increasingly disengaged from his own life which lacks any real passion, purpose, or direction. Aside from Samantha and his family, Ben has no genuine friends and he is a lonely traveler on his own life’s journey. Instead of being driven by his own desires and choices, Ben’s life seems to be set on auto-pilot and is propelled forward more by inertia and his own indifference.
Ben, a writer at heart, has already written his first great novel. Unfortunately, he felt so wounded by the constant rejection he received while trying to get his book published that he has chosen to simply give up on that dream completely. Now, his days are spent teaching English Literature and trying to inspire his young students to "seize the day" and acquire the wisdom he is offering them. Regrettably, even Ben’s best efforts appear to be wasted on children who are far more focused on texting their tween friends than listening to any teacher dispensing advice.
During a routine checkup, Ben suddenly discovers that he has Stage Four cancer which has already spread throughout his body. He has only a ten percent chance of survival even with the most aggressive forms of treatment. Ben feels fine now, but he knows that his cancer treatments will likely leave him feeling far more dead than alive. He decides that before he starts treatment, he must have at least one great adventure in his lifetime. Against Samantha’s wishes, he buys a motorcycle and decides to drive across Canada from Toronto to Vancouver. Along the way, Ben has a quirky fondness for stopping at every roadside attraction that claims to be the world's biggest tee pee or the world's largest hockey stick. Ben's fascination with these oddities seems to parallel his own inner search for meaning and a life of greater significance.
On his trip west, Ben encounters a wide range of people from whom he solicits advice on matters of love and the meaning of life. He seems to be hoping that someone may have the magic answer that will erase his self-doubt and set him on the path of self-actualization. Unbeknownst to Ben, he seems to be a carrier of positive Karma and good luck for everyone he interacts with along his journey. The film employs a very clever omniscient narrator who lets us realize the powerful and lasting impact that Ben’s acts of kindness have on the lives of all those he encounters even though he thinks these moments hold no special significance.
Ben’s journey has a direction, but no destination. And what happens when, sooner or later, he simply runs out of west? Ultimately, Ben recognizes that he must face his ambivalent feelings about his life and the people in it before time runs out for him. For the audience, Ben's attempts at coming to grips with his past and impending demise become a Rorschach card upon which we can project our own feelings of isolation and meaninglessness.
But is any one single transcendent adventure ever really going to be enough to make up for an entire life lived far below its potential? Ben’s one week journey across Canada’s vast frontier has rekindled a new sense of purpose and drive to complete one last meaningful act before he departs from this world. Ben finally discovers how he can leave a legacy behind him which makes him feel authentically happy and proud for the first time he can remember.
If you are looking for a movie that challenges you to looks at life’s larger questions, then One Week might just be a trip worth taking. The movie was filmed entirely in Canada and offers many spectacular sites and scenic vistas that are likely to be unfamiliar to most viewers. One Week, filmed in 2008, runs for 1:34 minutes and is currently available on Netflix streaming service. One Week asks far more questions than it answers, but I found it to be a film that resonated with me long after it is was over. The official One Week film trailer is below: