… The Day After Tomorrow: the reason Jack goes north, and Lucy stays behind.
Jack and Lucy Hall, though divorced, work together for the benefit of their son Sam, keeping in contact even when it’s difficult. When the storm hits, their first act is to find one another so that they can find their son together. When they realize that Sam is stuck north of the danger boundary, Jack tells Sam how to survive in the extreme cold, and promises to come for him as soon as possible.
He doesn’t wait until the storm passes. He doesn’t care that there’s nothing he can do – what could he possibly do? He goes north in the middle of the storm because he needs to be with his son, to be there with him so that Sam isn’t alone.
Why does Lucy stay behind? Because she’s watching little Peter, a patient in her hospital whose mother is far away. Lucy stays with Peter as she would her own child, even though it means she might get caught in the storm and die. She can’t do anything particularly, except be there with him so that he isn’t alone.
Frank and Jason go with Jack to find Sam; they do this so that Jack doesn’t have to face the danger alone. All the people who survive do so because they weren’t alone; all the people who die in the storm have their arms around one another (metaphorically or physically), because even though they’re dying, at least they’re not alone.
Humans for the most part are not meant to be alone; we believe that love is a tremendous – even magical – force of good without which we cannot live. When the chips are down, we will turn even to strangers for solidarity because we see value and strength in that union. In The Day After Tomorrow, the plot focuses on the bond between parents and children – that inherent promise that, whatever befalls the world, the parents will be there for the children to cling to. But the film shows all kinds of bonds – friendship, romantic love, a brotherhood of mankind – and reminds us that these connections are all that really matters.
All problems, natural or manmade, are problems because they threaten to leave us alone – either we will die alone, or we will be left alone by others’ deaths. Hurricanes, psycho shooters, wars, nightmares – our greatest fear is to be separated from the people we love, or to be left in the darkness with no one’s voice to comfort us.
The Day After Tomorrow suggests that it doesn’t matter if the storms are caused by Man or by the natural shifts of our planet, or if we try to change things or not. It suggests that the real solution to the problem is to gather our loved ones together, to first be with them and only then to contemplate how to proceed. Even though he might die trying – and can’t do anything anyway if he does get to Sam – Jack must go to his son and be with him. Even though she might die cradling him, Lucy must stay with Peter and be with him. Even though the trip seems doomed, Jason and Frank are there with Jack. The homeless man is there with his dog, and his dog is there with him. Mexico is there for the US, opening its borders and giving us safe haven.
Nature holds all the cards. We hold each other. That’s how it works.