Wonderlust indirectly covers the critical aspects of society that are necessary to sustain a viable community. Along with maintaining a simple economy and sense of order, human relationships have to be forged for communal peace, friendships, and building families. Charlie was one of the scavengers of scrap metal in the dangerous bombing range. When Charlie fell in love and was about to become a stepfather to two little girls, tough choices had to be made about his chosen profession.
While the subject of this low-rent utopia is impressive on its own, the heart of the film is the city’s cast of eccentric characters. For the older generation, living in Slab City is akin to living on a commune. They chose to detach from everyday life and live the rest of their experiences, enjoying an unusual degree of personal freedom. They wax philosophic about the rapid deterioration of the rest of the world.
The younger generations live here either because they have criminal records or are recovering from various addictions. Slab City becomes a place of acceptance for those discarded by life outside.
“At no time does Miller oversell or glamorize this life…”
As a documentary, Miller presents Slab City solely through the stories about its citizens. They provide the only known commentary about life in this region. Those stories are quite personal and engaging. Miller finds the right tone and mood to endear us to his “cast,” which helps us understand why this community endures. There’s also an honesty he brings to the presentation. At no time does Miller oversell or glamorize this life. My only complaint about the film is the continual storytelling feels like it runs long, even at 75 minutes.
What you get with Wonderlust is a story of people living on the lower end of the “99 percent” who gave up on the human experiment that the rest of us have bought into and decided to try it on their own instead. It would be too easy to write them off as “crazy” and call this city a “homeless camp.” After watching the news and reading my social media feeds, maybe Slab City is just the place to find peace again… after COVID passes.
"…the critical aspects of society that are necessary to sustain itself as a viable community."
Probably 4 or 5 years since I last saw a Slab City documentary, but don’t sound like much there has changed.