The Curious Life Of Howard Wakefield

Yesterday afternoon I watched the 2017 movie called”Wakefield,” starring Bryan Cranston and Jennifer Garner. And I found it delightful.

ImbD Wrote: Bryan Cranston gives the performance of a lifetime as Howard Wakefield, a lawyer on the edge of madness who has decided to disassociate himself from his own life.

The entire movie is Howard narrating his life.

In The Curious Life Of Howard Wakefield, Howard spends years in his garage attic.
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Wakefield is an interesting drama adapted from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story of the same name.

It starts out as a comedy of sorts but then becomes an exploration of the main character (Howard Wakefield).

Howard Wakefield had what most would consider “everything.” A beautiful wife, twin girls, and a career as an attorney.

What Happens:

In the beginning of the movie, he came home from work and was startled to see a raccoon among around his trashcans.

He becomes angry and chases the raccoon until it goes up to the garage attic. The garage attic was dusty and random furniture sat around, unused and unloved.

Tired and not yet ready to be with his family, Howard sat down in an easy chair.

He finds himself staring out the window straight into his and wife Diana’s bedroom. After awhile he fell asleep.

He woke up the next morning surprised that he’d slept through the night, as he hadn’t meant to do that.

But, it was done.

Now how was he going to explain to his wife where he’d been all night? How does he tell her that he was up in the garage attic watching her become more and more alarmed because he hasn’t come home?

So he puts off going downstairs and into the house because it’s simply easier to do nothing at all. He watches them out the window until his wife leaves for work and his girls are off to school.

He goes inside and eats something and thinks he’ll probably just shower and go to work.

What Happens Just Happens:

But then he doesn’t do that. He dawdles some more.

He is taking a little break from all his responsibilities, he thinks to himself.

Howard Wakefield doesn’t call into work. He doesn’t call his wife. Howard simply stays in the attic peering down at his life.

Dressed as though he’s going to work, he grabs a book to read and food from the refrigerator and pantry that he might need to spend the day in the attic. And he goes back to his lair.

Then Diana suddenly comes home. She is obviously upset, he realizes as he watches her cry. She begins to call around searching for him, concerned about his whereabouts.

First she checks his law office. The secretary tells her that they have not heard from Howard.

He mimes what she is probably saying, outside of his life looking in at what he has inadvertently created by staying in the attic overnight.

Howard could make up some excuse about where he’d been and come out of the attic, which would make the most sense. He could easily let her know that there’s no need for alarm, because he is fine.

But he doesn’t do that.

Howard watches his family and speaks aloud about what they may be saying about him. He finds it all a bit amusing and is almost like a young boy hiding from his mother.

The Curious Life Of Howard Wakefield
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Howard Wakefield Caught In Limbo:

He is caught in a sort of limbo, a mental and emotional limbo. He realizes that he quite enjoyed sleeping in the chair with no responsibilities.

Howard sits in the chair and reads his book, eats the food he brought from the kitchen, and thinks about his newfound freedom. He actually enjoys this little “vacation” from his normal life.

He finds a pair of binoculars in a box and from time to time he zooms in on his family. Watches as his wife’s mother pulls into the driveway, rushing to console her daughter.

He muses that he would love to point a rifle at the window and shoot the woman who is his mother-in-law. The woman who never shuts up and who is probably telling her daughter at that very moment that he’s not worth worrying over.

How nice it would be to just get rid of her.

And then one day turns into two.

Then to months as his hair grows scraggly and he’s grown a beard. He no longer really cares about all the niceties of his once quite civilized life.


He can go out at night and scavenge in trash cans for food. It isn’t all that hard to get by, he finds. Howard finds shoes and all kinds of things to amuse himself with that cost nothing at all.

And as he digs in his own trash cans, he can figure out what’s actually going on with Diana. He sees that she’s buying cheaper cuts of meat. So she’s worried about money, he thinks to himself.

Bryan Cranston as Howard Wakefield
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What began as one night turned into a way of life for Howard Wakefield. He didn’t decide to disappear from his family. After all, he hasn’t truly “left” them. He’s right there in the attic very near them.

Then one day he watches as his wife and daughters take his clothing to the car. They are ridding themselves of his things. He had expected her to mourn him a bit longer. He had not really given thought to what would eventually happen after he vanished.

Old Resentments:

He has entertained himself watching them go about their lives. Now Diana has to take care of the outdoor chores she had relegated to him. Taking out the trash and cleaning the gutters.

Howard watches with something akin to glee as he watches her struggle with rolling the trashcans down the driveway and out to the curb.

He thinks about when they began dating. How he kind of stole her from his best friend. He was competing with the other man and having fun with it.

And they ended getting married and have now been married for fifteen years. Had twin daughters who were now growing up so quickly into women.

Why had all that been so important to him, he wonders? He had been vain and arrogant back then. Why had he been so jealous of men talking to his wife? He can’t recall.

What Has Become Of His Life:

Howard has had time to really look at his life. To realize that he was simply going through the motions. He begins to notice the beauty of the stars and nature. He’d never really taken the time to do this.

Howard begins to go out in public to the park, and no one recognizes him anymore. He even appears once in front of Diana and she just thinks he’s another homeless man.

He has been liberated from his life, though he’d never planned it. Howard now fears going home. Too much time has passed. What would he say to explain himself?

Suddenly Howard changes his mind. He heads to the city in his fancy and expensive car that has sat in the garage untouched.

Howard goes to the thrift shop to buy clothing and gets a haircut, which he sorely needs. The barber shaves off his straggly beard.

It doesn’t seem that years have passed while he’s been in the attic watching his family. But he sees that his wife has begun to date again.

They no longer need him. And it finally frightens him, what he could lose and how swiftly the time has passed in solitude.

YouTube trailer of the movie
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You can watch the YouTube trailer here.

The Ending:

The movie ends with Howard walking in the door in his nice clothes and shaven face, as though he’s never been gone at all.

He no longer seems to worry about their reaction to him suddenly appearing.

After all, he’d seen more of his twin daughters from the attic than he’d actually seen them in years.

He had repeatedly told himself he’d never really left them. He’d never officially abandoned them. He was always close by.

But he now realizes that he doesn’t want them to “leave” him. He wants them back.

And though he’d dawdled for years in the attic with no plan in mind, now he has one. He’s going home.

The movie ends there. He suddenly appears in front of his wife and daughters in the living room.

The viewers never know what occurred after his long departure.

The entire movie seemed to be about Howard going into seclusion and looking at his life from the outside in. To appreciate his life as he’d had it all along.



  1. It is one thing to take some time off to oneself…and quite another to take a VERY long time off like this. As the wife I would have felt not valued at all. I can understand however how a person would like to take off permanently from stressful jobs!!

  2. For causing her all that pain and anxiety, I would hope she divorced him and took him for all the money she could. What a terrible thing to do to his family. He should have been more engaged in the first place. I find myself being very angry at this fictional man.

  3. Wow. Scary. Interesting to a point.
    The worrying for me, would certainly change my life.
    Especially with children.
    What if both parents had to work?
    How can or will the wife handle all the expenses with one salary?
    She would need to move. Right?
    Hope this never happens to anyone in real life.
    I will try and find the movie on cable. Give it a go.

    1. I wondered about that too. I think they were just well off to start with. I know at one point he wondered if she was dipping into the savings. She worked at a museum doing something.

  4. Over the weekend we watched Bryan Cranston ( and Annette Bening) in Jerry & Marge Go Large. It is loosely based on a true story. We really enjoyed it! Now we need to look for this one. Thanks for the recommendation.

  5. Wow! Can you even imagine that actually happening?! As a viewer, or reader, I’d want some closure. I’d want to know what happened next. What excuse does he give them? Do they forgive him and work it all out? Too many unanswered questions! Now, if it were a series, that would be a great cliff hanger to end a season on! But a single movie or a book ending that way, I think would drive me crazy! But what an interesting story line!

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