"One of my favorite moments in film is from a foreign movie, first released in 2006, called Paris, Je T'Aime, a series of twenty vignettes by a group of international directors. Each story takes place in Paris. One depicts a love affair; another a meeting between a father and daughter; another a violent and bloody murder. In one vignette, Alexander Payne, the director of the film Sideways, offers the story of Carol, a mail carrier from Denver, who has saved her money for a dream vacation to Paris. She's even taken French language lessons for the past two years in preparation for her big trip.
"Carol, played by Margo Martindale, seems a good soul, a middle-aged woman who lives with her two dogs, and who has traveled to Paris alone. Though she describes herself as happy and speaks about her friends, an element of loneliness suffuses her wanderings. Her tale, which takes the form of an oral report to her French class back home, is told in a voiceover. Carol's thoughts are conveyed in very simple words — since those are the only ones she knows in French.
"Toward the end of a long day of sightseeing and sampling local restaurants, Carol wanders into a sunlit park and sits on a wooden bench. During the morning, she was surprised to find herself so pensive — about her work, her friends, her two dogs, her lost love, and her mother, who has recently died from cancer. As she sits silently, Carol sees signs of life all around her: couples talking animatedly, children in a playground, a woman resting on the green grass. A breeze gently stirs her brown hair. Then something extraordinary happens.
"In her halting French, translated for the viewer in the English subtitles, Carol says this:
"'Sitting there, alone in a foreign country, far from my job and everyone I know, a feeling came over me.
"'It was like remembering something I'd never known before or had always been waiting for, but I didn't know what. Maybe it was something I had forgotten or something I've been missing all my life.
"'All I can say is that I felt, at the same time, joy and sadness. But not too much sadness.
"'Because I felt alive.
"As she says this, a look of peace washes over her tired features.
"I'm not sure if the filmmaker intended to portray a spiritual epiphany (though Alexander Payne went to a Jesuit high school). And I'm not sure if Carol, who is the star of, after all, a five-minute movie, was intended to be a spiritual person. But in simple words, she not only expresses what we spoke about in an earlier chapter as an 'uncommon longing,' but opens a window onto one of the goals of the way of Ignatius: to be alive."