“He had gone into the wilderness with the intention of coming out on the other end. That he had stopped trying did not mean that this was now his place.”

— Hernan Diaz, In the Distance


“All is lost here except for soul and body, that is, what’s left of them, and half a day’s ration.”

— Our Man, All is Lost


JC Chandor’s movie All is Lost and Hernan Diaz’s novel In the Distance both create a neo-mythology of sorts. To describe these tales as ‘man versus nature’ would be to oversimplify them, strip them down to mirror the barren surroundings in which the characters find themselves. Though one is a fresh coming-of-age story and one features a seasoned senior, there’s a deep undercurrent of common ground.

This pairing explores:

  • Constantly shifting, often deceptive landscapes
  • The virtues of silence
  • Grueling monotony in daily routine
  • Morality as an insufficient means of survival
  • How to MacGyver your way out of even the most inhospitable scenarios
  • Deciding whether enduring is possible and even worth it
  • Legendary outcasts
  • Deep-sea voyages as oceanic catalysts
  • A return to the start equaling victory
  • Bootstrapping badassery
  • The continual building up and breaking down of manmade materials
  • Relentless solitude
  • Learning how to rest in the unknown


At one point, Diaz’s Håkan accidentally creates a camera obscura in his cave dwelling. To me, this is the pivotal image of the novel. It represents this pairing’s message: Nature is turned on its head to reveal the full expanse of its wild dangers and the inexplicable glory of its sorcery. How we respond to this expanse is a decision we make alone.