You are best left to your own devices. By yourself. Abandoned and isolated as the world comes crashing in. When we dare not touch the sun, we are not living life to its fullest potential. But we are living it safely. Which was the braver, the one who keeps grounded and is scared of experience? Or those that ride the freedom of the high? The former, obviously. Live slow, die old. Miracle Mile forces its characters into that fast and free lifestyle so many enjoy, without the ability to live free, though. With seventy minutes remaining for the rest of their lives, they are in the stages of doing and dying. Not one or the other, both are sliced together for those that try and survive the impending nuclear blast.
But there is no survival. Love does not survive the nuclear blast, as Harry Washello (Anthony Edwards) and Julie Peters (Mare Winningham) are doomed to discover. They are the idyllic lovebirds we love to follow at the movies. Love is a cycle, and condensing that into a seventy-minute experience is no small feat. Director Steve De Jarnatt manages to do so, presenting the first encounter, feelings of love, and the trundle towards the grave all in the span of one night. Much of Miracle Mile depends on how far the love stretches between Harry and Julie. As they throw lobsters into the ocean, and Harry explains he has “always been a romantic guy,” there is a feeling that the two are destined for a life together. That is the crux of this experience, we must believe they are to be together forever if we have any sense of care for them.
With its underlying, lingering effects of tragedy, Miracle Mile is quite telling of what will happen to these characters. The scene is set, with a hollow soundtrack of constant worry looming over what should be delicate, happier times. An elderly couple, who have not spoken in fifteen years, still love one another. Many pockets of art, or even advice, cater to the idea that we should make decisions with a fastidious response, otherwise we are set to regret the days we wasted. Parallels are drawn between the happy-go-lucky tenderness between Harry and Julie, and the prideful misery between Ivan (John Agar) and Lucy Peters (Lou Hancock). Our ideal representation of love, disparaged ever so slightly by the view of a cold and emotionless reality, which finds itself on the other side of the spectrum. Such parallels are neatly wrapped, never lingering for too long.
An effective, tragic set of circumstances lend themselves to Miracle Mile. Its beauty comes from an expression of love in a time where that would be the last thing on any sane mind. What is it about the fear of death that brings us so close to the warmth of others? Natural instinct, and an undeniable horror of isolation. Miracle Mile adapts that with great effect. Its iconography and glum, 1980s aesthetic of loneliness in the La Brear Tar Pits bleeds into its characters, their motivations, and the moments they share together. We are shown it all, but without the hard times between Harry and Julie, it is hard to throw them any further than idyllic. Jarnatt’s direction is exceptional, but his story of two lovers looking toward the end of their time together lacks a level of realism that would greatly aid the depth of these leading characters.