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The Lost City of Z starring Charlie Hunnam: My take on the movie [review] #book2movies

Once upon a time brave men ventured forth and discovered the world. The Lost City of Z is a gorgeously filmed reminder for those of us sitting in our safely sheltered cocoons where a tap on our screen can take us virtually almost anywhere in  without risk of danger or disease, that it wasn’t always so. Based on the book by David Grann, The Lost City of Z tells of a time when the world with all its nooks and crannies still held mystery, places full of peril and that it took men of heroic proportions to make those places known. 

Charlie Hunnam is Percy Fawcett, a military man who longs for action but finds himself sent to the Amazon in order to map the boundaries between Brazil and Bolivia by the Royal Geographical Society. Once there, after hearing the story of a lost city, and seeing some broken pottery in the deepest part of the jungle, shards that may be evidence of a more advanced civilization, he is lured to return to look for the City of Z, a place he will spend his life seeking. 

Like anyone who goes against the grain, leaving the typical expectations of what to do with one’s life behind, Fawcett is initially ridiculed but persists. Hunnam captures Fawcett’s stubborn and intense spirit, his intelligence along with a physical presence that strikes me as that very old fashioned word—manly—along with that obsession, his openness that the white European history may not be the only one that matters. 

And in a similar old fashioned vein, I’m reminded of the saying “Behind every great man, there is a great woman.’’

Sienna Miller is that woman, Fawcett’s wife, Nina. Proud and supportive, it would be a mistake to write Nina off as a relic of antiquity. Very much a modern woman, Nina desperately wanted to join Percy on his journey but they finally agree she needs to stay in England, raising the children. 

Director James Gray who adapted David Grann’s nonfiction book gives us examples of Nina’s forward thinking spirit in a scene where the couple is dressing for a gala event, Nina at the dressing table fussing with the buttons at the back of her dress.

“You must be so pleased with yourself, you men. Making us wear these awful things,’’ she tells her husband who looks at her with an understanding smile.
“At least you're not wearing trousers,’’ he responds, his demeanor recognizing this is not at all a far-fetched idea.
“Oh, I would if I could’’ Nina answers and with those few lines we see it. A modern woman who knows the burdens of being a woman constrain her, for now but perhaps not forever.

Despite her fears for her husband, her desire not to be left behind, she is fully supportive of what he has to do. When he is about to depart, leaving Nina with their young son she makes a short speech that strikes a chord with anyone who feels there is more to this world than man (and woman) can dream of.

“My Percy, I know your first instinct will be to grieve, but I adjure you rather to consider our son and the love you must show him. I knew it would be a boy. Always teach him to dream, to seek the unknown, to look for what is beautiful is its own reward. And I beg you to remember those words so easy to forget: A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a Heaven for? ’’

The cast includes Robert Pattinson in a surprising supporting role as Henry Costin, a loyal colleague and fellow explorer, but one in which he throws himself fully. “Is that Pattinson?’’ my husband asked. “I had no idea he was such a good actor. I thought he was just a pretty boy.” 

Tom Holland—best known for Billy Elliot, Holland won the BAFTA Rising Star award in 2017—plays Percy’s son Jack, who after a lifetime of being left behind finally joins his father on a dangerous mission back to the Amazon.

James Gray’s script beautifully illuminates everything Fawcett’s life stood for. 

“So much of life is a mystery my boy. But you and I have made a journey that other men can not even imagine. And it has given understanding to our hearts.’’

For me, that says it all. The Lost City of Z is an adventure of a movie, a journey where we see majestic vistas and the drive of the human spirit. It’s most definitely a journey worth taking. Ironically enough, I took my trip to the Amazon via Amazon Prime. Have you seen it? 

Today it’s easy to visit the Amazon with GoogleMaps. 
Men like Percy Fawcett made it possible.