Romance Movie

by Gino Santoro
(Lima, Perú)

Question: I have a difficulty analyzing the plot structure for the movie Wall-E. Can a movie have two different stories with the same characters? Wall-E falls in love with Eve, so his goal is to hold hands with her, which he achieves after a large amount of conflict. On the other hand, Eve has the goal of delivering the plant that Wall-E had found before so that the cruise ''Axiom'' can return to Earth. The captain of the ship adheres to this goal after learning how beautiful the Earth is through pictures and videos. That goal is achieved.


My screenwriting teacher told us that different stories need different goals, so there's a different story for every different goal. Therefore in Wall-E I find there are two stories. But Wall-E also becomes a part of that story regarding Earth, does that mean he's changed his goal or that he can be part of this story and goal as well as part of his initial goal, which was to hold hands with Eve?

Answer: It's been a while since I saw Wall-E, but here's my take...

In a well-structured story, there are at least two and often four throughlines. These are not separate stories, but different aspects of the same story.

The overall throughline concerns the goal that affects or involves most of the characters. In Wall-E that is the goal of returning to earth. This goal affects or involves all the passengers on the ship, the Captain, the robots, and even the antagonist, the autopilot, who is trying to prevent it from happening. You can think of this throughline as being objective, since it is looking at the problem within the entire story world.

One character will be leading the effort to achieve the story goal. We call this character the protagonist, who in this case I believe is Eve.

Next, on a more subjective level, we have the main character throughline, which concerns the main character's inner conflict over whether or not to change. This would be the throughline concerning Wall-E's love for the rather aloof Eve, which is tested throughout the story.

You will note that the main character is not necessarily the protagonist, as in this case, but is the character through whose eyes we see the story.

From what I recall, Wall-E is a steadfast main character, which means he resolves his inner conflict by refusing to change. Though he gets amnesia for a brief moment near the end, he retains his love for Eve (the impact character) so that she changes and falls in love with him.

Typically, the way the main character resolves his inner conflict determines whether the overall story goal is achieved. This is one of the key ways the two throughlines connect into one story. It's Wall-E's decision to remain steadfast at all costs, to risk his life to help Eve, that brings about the ship's return to earth, even though he has little understanding or concern with that goal himself.

Incidentally, the other two throughlines are the impact character throughline (in this case, Eve's personal story) and the relationship throughline, which illustrates the arc of their relationship and how the two of them see things in contrast to how the overall story characters see things.

Hope that helps.

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