The Comfort of Food
By Andrea Brucculeri
Passengers (2016) shoots its audience into outer space to witness the psychological breakdown of protagonist Jim Preston as he struggles to find comfort on a lonely spaceship. As the only human awake on the ship, he finds his greatest support and entertainment from an artificial intelligence “bar tender” robot and therefore Jim spends a significant amount of time at the bar. When fellow human Aurora Lane enters the story, the bar continues to be the setting of every important or emotional conversation, with the only exception being scenes in the ship’s restaurant. Settings of eating and drinking become a clear centerpiece of comfort, emotion, and humanity for the passengers.
When Jim is alone, he sits day after day at the bar with Arthur, the bartender robot. The alcohol helps him bond with the machine, and strengthens their relationship to a point that almost mimics a true human friendship. The bar is also a place of building trust. Jim tells Arthur his most personal and dangerous thoughts, which include “waking up” another passenger, which would effectively be taking a passenger’s life. Usually Jim is sipping whiskey, which is the drink Arthur suggested for him the first day they met. This suggests that Jim even believes that Arthur knows what is best for him to drink, and solidifies the trust between them as Arthur makes his drinks and gives him advice day after day.
Once Aurora is awake, a second setting is introduced— the fanciest restaurant on the ship. This is where the two go on their first date and quickly becomes a symbol of their love. They share intimate information over food, like the story of Aurora’s dad dying. They also cerebrate Aurora’s birthday with cake at this restaurant, and it’s one of the most joyful scenes of the whole film. Aurora also shares her “gold member” meals with Jim, which provides him with much higher quality food and nourishment. One morning they even swipe the gold member food aside and have sex on the breakfast table. With this, Aurora is feeding Jim in multiple ways— with her food, companionship, and body.
The screen capture provided is from 26:22 and is Jim eating breakfast next to the pod of still-sleeping Aurora. This is significant because when Jim is obsessing over Aurora and deciding whether or not to wake her up, he doesn’t just sit by her pod all day. He specifically sits near her pod at breakfast. He wants to share a meal with her, not just time. The light in the image heavily hits Jim’s face and chest and Aurora’s pod, signally the three most important things in this moment — Aurora, Jim, and his heart or love for her. After those things, the most important and well-lit parts of the image are the food in Jim’s hands. Because he cares about her, he wants to share his food with her. Because he has food, he has something meaningful to share with her.
This moment of Jim’s eating breakfast with sleeping Aurora is the beginning of a life of sharing love, space, and food together. While the two never get to the planet that their life is spent traveling to, they find a world of emotion and meaning through each other, letting the food and bar on the ship anchor them to their humanity even in the most painful of moments. The food remains an important reminder of their humanity, their home planet, and the way that they take care of each other.