Did you realize that there is an enormous world of film out beyond the tightly defined and constructed box of Hollywood film norms? That the standard Hollywood tropes and narrowly confined screenplays aren’t all there is in the world of film. Which is why, today, we are excited to talk about The Fare. A movie you should all see. And after you’ve seen it, join us for my explanation and detailed walkthrough. And better yet? Today we have a special treat because Brinna Kelly, the co-lead, and screenplay author, was kind enough to help enlighten me on some of the more intricate details of the film. And I have also published an interview with her as well – which you can find right here. I had such a great conversation with her, I can’t wait to bring it to you. More importantly though, I’m so stoked about bringing you this movie (Thanks DeKev for bringing it to my attention!!). And now, the Fare Film Recommendation and Explanation…
The Fare, directed by D.C. Hamilton, and written by the aforementioned Brinna Kelly, is a really simple story. It’s a story of two people stuck in a perpetual loop. A taxi cab delivery loop that is really satisfying. Here at THiNC. we cover our fair share of looping mindjob movies. No, not just Groundhog Day. Not that there’s anything wrong with it. Movies like A Day, 41, Blood Punch, Russian Doll, Pig, Infinite Chamber, you think I’m even close to being done yet? Nope. And the cause of the looping that happens in these movies are a fascinating study in and of themselves. An unforgiven sin. A chance at a perfect day. A hope for a reason why. Stars aligning. Stars misaligning. But The Fare has one of the most intriguing origin stories of them all. However, from the outside, this movie is as cheesy as it gets. Two people riding in a taxi?? Awful. But, we’ve seen other movies just like it with simpler raisons d’etre – like Locke maybe? Here, watch the trailer – it’s ultra cheesy – but the movie’s plot and explanation are worth the investment.
But know this, if you haven’t seen this movie yet (and you have lots of places and options to watch, here, here, and here), you really need to stop, and not continue on. Spoilers will be found throughout the rest of this post.
The Fare Walkthrough
The reason I walk you guys through the intricate details of the movie is mainly to make certain we are all 100% on the same page. And this movie has a lot more going on under the surface than usual, so I am going to move extra carefully as we walk through this film. (And heck, sometimes it’s more about me getting on the right page than it is about you figuring it out!) Then, afterwards, we’ll discuss the ins and outs of the movie in general. So yeah, remember, SPOILERS.
Our taxi cab driver, Harris (played by Gino Anthony Pesi), starts the movie off with a fare. He picks up Penny, they head towards Elm and River, and toward a set of events that might rearrange our brains a little along the way. The conversation is congenial, and the two seem to have something else going on. But somewhere along the line, POOF! Penny vanishes.
Round 2, begins with another taxi cab fare, and Penny in the back seat again. The movie is all black and white, lacking color, and depth. This time the conversation varies slightly, but not very significantly. There is one moment though, when the cab almost hits something and Penny cracks her head, that Harris grabs her hand, and everything goes to color. “Penny, are you alright?” That is when we realize that she never told him her name. What is going on here? And Penny beseeches Harris to remember her and then vanishes again… POOF!
But the THIRD TIME? The third time it stayed up! (Holy Grail anyone?) No, the third time, their conversation diverges from the previous loops and Harris starts remembering on his own. He remembers their conversations, he remembers the radio details, he remembers the storm, he remembers that she asks if she can call him Harry. He remembers all of it. And he’s immediately curious if he’s in a science lab, “pumped full of cocaine and daffodil juice or something.” And Penny informs him that they have shared maybe over a hundred rides together, and that he had forgotten them all. And then she vanishes again.
But the fourth time, when he pulls up to Penny, he says, “Get in, it smells like burning.” And they are off. “Sit up front.” “Is that allowed?” “Who’s going to tell on us, we are apparently caught in a time loop together.” The conversation is fast, and fluid, it’s as if they hadn’t missed a beat since the last time they were together. However long ago that was (wink). And we begin to learn that Penny has tried a million different ways to get out of the loop together (different directions, they’ve gotten out and walked, running the cab off the road at 100 mph) but mainly Penny is just thankful to have a real conversation together.
Ride five – yes, we are to ride five already – and the conversation goes towards real conversation. Stranded island type conversations. Harris’ theories about aliens creating humans to look like them…etc., etc. But mainly Harris is despondent about this loop that they are caught in. That is when Penny tells Harris about being trapped in a joyless marriage back in the real world. And here we begin to get into discussions of aloneness, and existential meaning…purpose. But when Penny is with Harris, she doesn’t feel alone. Most importantly, we learn that Harris once had a significant other in his life…and she got into his cab one day. And that he didn’t know how to fix it. And she’s gone. Harris chooses to not reset his meter, and he floors it. But a bright light and a loud voice orders him to turn back.
Ride six – is started with a hug, and an honest exclamation from Harris that he can’t lose Penny ever again. And they make a decision to stay there together forever…to never leave. But Harris notices that Penny has a scar where she hit the partition. And that implies to him that these are not recurring and resetting loops, but something else. This is where the spoilers become really important. One last chance – if you haven’t seen the movie, and SOMEHOW, you’ve gotten this far down this page, you really need to go. Harris really needs to understand what is happening to him – understand this non-resetting looping that is happening. And just before Penny disappears, she tells Harris not to drink the water. Which takes the film in a totally new direction.
The first fare after the sixth is an old man. At the end of the ride, he gives Harris a gold coin. And from there on he begins taking other riders – but amongst the new riders are memories of his first time meeting Penny in real life. Their budding relationship, and then her disappearance. But he does learn one important thing from the dispatcher, that his job is to be the ferryman….to collect golden coins for rides, and deliver people to their destinations. That, oh, and the small detail that Penny is the dispatcher’s wife. That every year Penny leaves, and when she comes back, she comes back via Harris’ cab. And from here on out we have a cavalcade of fares for Harris to ferry.
But eventually, Penny is back. And Harris has been waiting for this conversation an entire year. The thing he wants most of all to communicate is that even if he only gets 20 minutes a year, he really is a very lucky man. That they are the stars Altair and Vega, and that their paths cross only once a year.
The Fare Film Explanation
OK, so as we discussed in the walkthrough…the looping repetitions aren’t actually a standard Groundhog Day sort of loop. Generally when a film invokes a Groundhog Day loop the point of the film is to morally resolve sin, or failure, and direct the hero towards perfection. That isn’t happening here. Instead, the film is continuing to progress in time, but Harris isn’t fully aware of what is actually happening. And it’s only when he sees Penny’s scar that he understands that time is actually progressing quasi-normally.
When Harris is told by the dispatcher, that he is death, and that Harris is his ferryman, does Harris really understand what is going on. In this moment, you should have immediately started flipping back through your memories of Greek gods, Egyptian gods, Roman gods, in order to place who Harris really is. And when I chatted with Brinna, and she told me that Harris’ last name was Caron…Harris Caron…it all came together. Now, to appreciate that, in the world of classical Greek mythology, the ferryman had several different names – but Charon, or Caron – was the most widely used. And if you are really curious, an A+ over achiever, you’ll find him in Dante’s Divine Comedy (the fifth ring), and also in Milton’s Paradise Lost.
And, in ancient times, many believed that a coin placed in the mouth of a dead person would pay the fee necessary for Caron to ferry their family member across the river to the underworld. This coin was called Charon’s Obol. But if the dead couldn’t afford the tribute, they would be cursed to never cross the river.
The 3 Theories to Explain The Fare
Now, having spent an hour or so chatting with Brinna about her film, I am fairly biased as to how good it is. But that doesn’t mean I’ve lost all objectivity. With that said, I think there are three possible ways (along an infinite continuum) in which to interpret this movie. Theory 1 is the literal reading of the film. Theory 2 would be a dark view. And Theory 3 would be the mind-blown ultra-dark view. All of which come from Brinna and myself bouncing alternatives off of each other. (Brinna gets 100% of the credit for theory 3…kudos to you Brinna.)
Theory #1 – The Literal View
If you are a romantic, and you prefer a little simpler view of life – this is the theory for you. I’m not saying that in a denigrating way at all. Personally wish the optimistic view was my own personal first inclination. But alas.
This theory basically states that Penny, or Persephone, wasn’t the one who trapped Harris and made him the Ferryman. The Dispatcher, Hades, is the one that did that. Here’s Brinna talking about this particular theory: “He (the Dispatcher) talks about it in his reveal monologue to Harris after the old man was dropped off. (After Harris died, Penny would have wanted his soul to move on like the others, drink from the Lethe and forget about his life and her, and reincarnate. But her husband, who is cruel, had other plans.) What Penny did for Harris was give him the water, so he didn’t have to remember his purgatory, or her, so he would be blissfully unaware. (It’s the only thing she could do for him. Because ultimately, Persephone is not as strong as her husband Hades, who’s one of the big ‘three’, the eldest at that, Kronos’ first born.) But Harris’s memory of her is so strong, that it’s starting to break through the fog, and when they touched, he remembered her despite the water. That’s why, in the end, he chose to stop drinking, so he can always remember her…”
Make sense? She went kind of fast. Let me try and slow it down a little bit. Persephone, Hades’ wife, met Harris while away from the underworld. They fell in love, but eventually fell distant. Harris came back after realizing he screwed up, but it was too late, Persephone had already left. But she never would have wanted evil to befall Harris. Hades, on the other hand, giggled at the idea of evil befalling Harris… and so he made Harris the perpetual ferryman. But eventually, Harris began to remember, in spite of the water that Persephone gave him to ease his pain. And voila, he stopped drinking it in order to have his 20 minutes with her each year. Make more sense?
This is the romantic’s view mainly because it shows Harris as someone that saw his eternal existence as a glass half full sort of experience. He was given the opportunity to spend an eternal amount of time (albeit in 20 minute increments) with his one true love. And it wasn’t Persephone that locked him in this experience, but rather, it is Charon & Persephone who are choosing to make the best of this ‘curse’.
Theory #2 The Pessimistic View
So, let’s think about the plot of this movie a second, practically. If we were to go back to the beginning and think about it from scratch, knowing what we know about Penny, the Dispatcher, and Harris. Penny is Persephone, who is the daughter of Zeus. Persephone was the queen of the underworld who carries out the curses of men on the souls of the dead. She’s married to Hades, the god of the underworld. Death himself. Right? And let’s just take Penny at her at her word, that her life married to Hades is anything but satisfying. So she courts a mortal man, a taxicab driver. And during this experience, they spend time together for about a year, and then it falls apart. And Penny disappears. But then, somehow, Harris dies, and it is Persephone that installs Harris as the Phlegyas, the Caron, the ferryman for the dead, for all time. Not Hades. Why? So that she can have Harris forever. (Random tangent, if you guys haven’t read the book The Book Thief, I literally cannot recommend it enough. It happens to be narrated by Death, and has some of the most beautiful prose this side of straight up and down poetry.)
“OK, so?” I hear you asking. Well, I get it that the gods play with mortals regularly… but this is some next level god-playing if you ask me. No? And for Harris to vow his unconditional love to Persephone after learning of how she trapped him in this task seems a bit much. No? Isn’t it literally the definition of a Sisyphean task? WHICH WAS A CURSE! Sisyphus was tasked with rolling his boulder for eternity because he was selfish and deceitful, no? What was Harris’ sin? How do we spin this as a blessing?
Theory #3 The Mental Mindjob View
What if, the experiences we watch throughout The Fare are just one of a million different times that Harris has forgotten, and then remembered again? Here’s Brinna again, talking through the ins and outs of this particular theory:
“Do you think this is even the first time Harris has remembered Penny? Penny’s words are unreliable, she’s lied to him throughout the film (whether or not it’s for his own good is up for debate…). So, what if this has all happened before? What if it hasn’t been 100 rides? What if it’s been 1000? 10,000? He’s in eternity (or limbo, whatever you want to call it..) time is relative…what if they’ve been here before? He remembers her, he re-declares his love for her. They continue like that for an age or two… But eventually, his human mind can’t take the loneliness and isolation, he starts drinking the water again…after awhile, the entire dance starts anew. Imagine that…what if that’s the loop they’re in, and Harris still can only see but a fraction of it. Poor human soul, lost among the Gods…”
This vantage seems the most real to me only because it is the gods we are talking about here. But the beauty of this movie, and these three theories is that you can choose the one that makes the most sense to you.
Final Thoughts on The Fare
The conversation with Brinna Kelly really helped me to clarify my understanding of what happened at the end of The Fare. But even so, a question that still plagues me at the back of my mind is…after Harris walked out on Penny, and then came back to find her gone…how did Harris die? Did Hades kill him? Did Harris kill himself? Was it an accident? Each of these variations could have been added above to the correct theory that matches best. (E.g.: Theory #1 Just a car accident caused by Harris’ drinking. Theory #2 Hades killed Harris. Theory #3 Harris committed suicide.)
We know that his cab was wrecked. Penny said she had it fixed up after he died. Did he commit suicide after losing his one true love? Was it just a random accident? Or was he just taken from earth by Persephone to help ferry the dead across the Styx and in the process, his cab was crashed mid-teleportation? When I asked Brinna about this particular plot point, here is what she had to say about it, “Yes, the way you described it is pretty much how I imagined it happening…except I don’t think Harris meant to kill himself necessarily (that probably plays into why he can’t remember it clearly). I think he probably had too much to drink and then crashed his cab. Hence why dispatcher taunts him about ‘hitting the sauce’ early on.” She had a lot more to say on that plot point, so watch out for my interview with her in the next few days to hear more.
I was CERTAIN that The Fare was going to go down the exact same road that all the other looping movies take. That Harris was in desperate need of learning that one critical thing in order to perfect his fare experience with Penny…in order to escape the loop. So, for me to get right hooked by Brinna’s clever screenplay was a real treat. The simple aesthetic (Did you know this movie was filmed in only six days?? Yeah, extraordinarily difficult to pull off even a simple movie like this one in six days.) and magnetic acting of the two leads was a lot of fun to dive into.
And the movie does a good job juking us on the concept of the loop actually not being a loop. Most importantly, it is a clever romance made out of a tragic circumstance. A curse even. One that I’m not entirely certain is a love story. Remember the movie Passengers, with Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt? It has that similar after taste. I’m stuck, married to Hades, eternally trapped…so, hey you, pleasantly sleeping woman…who happens to be beautiful…why don’t you wake up, and enthrall me a bit as I pass through occasionally! hahah. But ultimately it works for me. Harris has had his close encounter tangle with the gods, and is now the eternal ferryman. Alright. And romance, or no, he really does seem perfect for the job.