‘Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams’ Recap: The Commuter Looks For Happiness And Finds Tragedy
In “The Commuter,” Timothy Spall’s character spends his days stuck in a train office, working for London’s massive commuter transit system. Everyone is rude to him. There’s never any tea bags in the office kitchen. It’s dirty and depressing. And his nights and weekends aren’t much better. He loves his family, but his son suffers from severe mental problems that cause him to act out violently—and despite treatment, he only seems to be getting worse.
When a woman (Tuppence Middleton) stops by his office asking for a ticket to a station he’s certain does not exist, his curiosity is sparked and he decides to board the train in search of the place she called Macon Heights, a 28-minute trip from his office. At the specified time, he witnesses his fellow commuters preparing to jump at the spot where Macon Heights should be (and clearly isn’t). On impulse, he jumps too and discovers a picture perfect town where everyone is kind and the coffee tastes good and the cafe always has something fresh from the oven to serve its customers.
In Macon Heights, he meets the same woman who tried to buy a ticket from him. She tells him he has to return on the 7:20pm return train and he obeys, arriving home to find that his life has been dramatically altered. His house and wife are the same, but it’s as if his son never existed. Is his life easier? Yes. But is he happier? He doesn’t know.
Spall’s character, Ed, decides to look into Machon Heights, to see if any trace of it exists in the history books or in planning records. He meets a journalist who’s been investigating the phenomenon, but she’s never been allowed in. What she does know is that it was the dream of a builder who came to financial ruin and killed himself. The woman Ed keeps running into is his daughter. Macon Heights is her domain—an ideal, false front world that alters the real world of those who visit it, erasing their problems and their sadness.
Only Ed doesn’t want his son erased. His life might be easier, but not in a way he can accept. His refusal to comply with the way his trips to Macon Heights have altered his reality begins to have consequences in the town itself. The facade starts to crumble and the horrors experienced by the people who visit it begin to bleed through.
Ed’s insistence on having his son back in his life ruins the town and enrages the woman who runs it, but in the end, Ed returns home to find that he has his family back… for better or for worse.