The Will To Live

An Essay Of The Film: Dallas Buyers Club


DBC.ron crying

Many times I have wondered about the “engine of life”, where does the strength come from when everything seems to go the wrong direction? What makes us want to live through the difficulties? I believe that most of us learn to live life as it comes, without questioning it, but sometimes an event might take place and change everything about us or show us features of ourselves that were hidden deep within. This new insight could hold the power for us to change our view about what life is and help us transform it in ways that suits our best self. Dallas Buyers Club by Jean-Marc Vallée (2013) is a film that, in my opinion, reflects on general wonderings about how some of us live without consciousness, just adjusting ourselves to the immediate pleasures and taking life for granted. Then, about the importance of taking decisions when necessary mainly out of a crisis that transforms our perspective and finally, creating a new life consciously. I don’t believe there is a recipe for having an ideal lifestyle, but if this movie should work as an example, it would be of the strength of the “will” and of how far someone can go when one desires to achieve something.

      Ron Woodroof is a cowboy man who enjoys life through the rodeo, sex, drinking and gambling. After an unforeseen accident he is taken to the hospital where is told that he is positive for HIV and that it seems his life has only thirty days left. From that day on he struggles to find ways to survive and to live his life with a certain level of dignity. At first, Ron cares for not much except his sweet rewards of pleasure and about his friends perhaps without thinking that there could be an end to that fun, he is unaware of his own mortal condition and his finite existence. The first sequences show us that Ron likes to have sex with different women at the back of the stables while the rodeo is on show. Afterwards, he goes to the dressing room to gamble with his friends. Life for him seems to be a chain of vices that fills his head with excitement however, when he is back at his apartment, there is no one to receive him or to take care of him when he feels ill. The “call” of something being wrong with him is ignored and only after he goes to the hospital and receives clear and loud the news that his life is to an end, he confronts his own reality, the awareness of his living self. It is at the edge of loosing everything that he realises he does not want to die; the denial of the situation comes to invade his body since he does not want to believe that something outside of himself might end his journey:

Ron: Fuck this, this is shit. Fucking thirty day motherfuckers. Let me give y’all a little newsflash. There ain’t nothing out there that can kill Ron Woodroof in thirty days“.

He was right, nothing outside of himself could end his journey more than what he used to do to himself and still could do. I think that many a times we just do not realise how important is each an every one of our experiences since they may have either positive or negative consequences that later develop by themselves, and just as our actions define us also the decisions we take play an important role in the construction of our journey through life, taking things for granted can lead us to learn in more difficult ways how important we should be to our own eyes, I am not speaking of a pretentious sense of importance though, I am referring to the essential respect and care that we ought to have for our place in this world, taking aside religious or spiritual ideas, but at the most basic fulfilment of our needs and well-being.

The period of denial for Ron had to be short. After a few days he gets himself researching about AIDS and the possibilities for a treatment that could save his life. The time for joking around is over and he has to make front to the process of taking decisions and be in charge of his future. He has to go through a life-changing event to become aware of the active participation he must have in his life to lead it to the ends he actually wants. Awareness is a powerful tool for it helps us realise what are the paths we should follow to achieve a goal and when the landscape seems to be undefined the knowledge of our own selves or of the things that we ultimately pursue could help us find the way again. If we rely in life-changing events to wake up to the possibilities of influencing our present and future, then our learning experiences might be more difficult that we think because the challenge is not in the “doing” but in the ignorance of it and in how we get from the knowledge to the action: decisions, the process of living round up to a decision that takes one through a certain path and from there another decision to be taken might be awaiting that would lead us through another way and so, creating a life-road meant to fulfil our own voluntary destiny.

      Ron has to act upon his life so he starts getting medicine illegally since the hospital is not giving him the meds he needs, they are just in a testing phase and other options are unapproved by the government. He finds obstacles in the way of recovering his life due the corrupted system that surrounds him so he has to develop new attitudes to overcome those obstacles like resistance and resilience, the first one for every time that a possibility seems to fail and the latter for every time he has to try again. This cycle is not so different to the interaction we experience in daily life, although it is an extreme comparison, we all might perceive certain situations as obstacles when reaching a goal and it is only our courage to continue the journey and being aware of our actions that help us go through the difficulties. In the process of overcoming obstacles, not only we get wiser about the affair we are pursuing but also we might get the chance to help or support others along the way. At the end of the journey the golden prize is not only that we may achieve the goal but also that in the way we transform ourselves and –with some luck– help others in their own roads. However, and perhaps what is most rewarding, this transformation is nothing but the result of us being active upon our selves and our surroundings, it is in its entirety our own realisation and the creation of our present and future.

      In his journey of getting the medicines and then distributing them to others that are in the same need, Ron meets Rayon, a homosexual drug-addict who offers him some help when no one else has. Interacting with Rayon and later even getting into business with him is a great challenge for Ron since he has to overcome his homophobic ideas and focus on the main objective that both have. By doing this he gets not only the opportunity to vanquish his prejudices by acquiring knowledge about those who he used to diminish, but also he can reflect his own responsibility of taking care of himself in Rayon’s attitudes.

“Ron: Now, look, it’s one thing for me not to like ya, but why can’t you be a better friend to yourself?”

Like T.S. Eliot said “Life is Very Long”, but for each individual it can be as long as one chooses, independent of the fortune that life sometimes seems to bring without previous notice, it is in a great measure that we influence what happens in our lives, from who we meet to what we achieve, therefore it is in our hands how we manage our past, present and future. Action should not be regarded as something one has to do to remediate something, but do it even ahead of any problem that may arise. Life is not perfect and it will never be, but if we get used to take action upon the good things in our life, whenever it comes a bad period we will be better trained to confront it, pass it and move on to a better situation.

      I am not quite convinced that Dallas Buyers Club answered my question about the “engine of life” and the impulse to go through difficulties however, it made me reflect about each person deciding for their own future and what is needed inside each of us to move forward. So I guess the “engine” is not something already set, but depends on what each person cherish the most, the “impulse to continue” most be something simply out of love and responsibility, taking action for ourselves and not letting the circumstances take over but remaining strong and willing to lead our destiny.


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