In this wonderful adaptation, Walter works for the magazine Life. Life has been acquired by another company, and they are ceasing paper magazines and instead going to fully on-line editions. Walter’s job has been to manage “negative assets” (a humorous description of photographs), and has been the main liaison for their most famous photographer Sean O’Connell. Walter is given the job of producing the final magazine’s cover, using one of Sean’s photographs. He sends a roll of negatives to Walter, explaining that #25 is in his mind the “quintessence” of life. However, when Walter unrolls the negatives, #25 is missing. Sean also sends Walter a wallet engraved with Life’s motto: “To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other, and to feel. That is the purpose of life.” Frantic to find the negative, Walter tries to find Sean by traveling to Greenland.
Up until this point, Walter has never done anything that he considers “noteworthy” or “mentionable”. He quit skateboarding and school to take care of his family when his father died, and ended up in this job at Life. He always wished he could do something amazing and did “zone out” into his imagination on a regular basis. He envies Sean O’Connell tremendously, and sees him as his ideal.
When he finally gets his chance on this incredible multi-country adventure, he is able to call up things from long ago (like skateboarding) that help him tremendously. However, he does not find Sean O’Connell or the negative and returns home only to be fired. He also is apparently turned away from his love interest in the movie, thinking that she has reconciled with an ex. In disgust, he throws away the wallet Sean gave him and goes on a trip traveling through the world. He eventually finds Sean himself and asks Sean about the picture. Sean doesn’t tell him what it is, but tells him it is in the wallet. When he returns he discovers that his mother fished the wallet out of the trash. He grabs the negative and without even looking at it, takes it to Life’s offices.
I won’t spoil it by telling you what the picture is, however, it is a huge surprise and an honor to Walter. The thing that Walter didn’t know about himself, Sean O’Connell knew. Commitment is heroic: whether that commitment is to getting the best photo even it means risking your life, or thinking of others instead of yourself and taking care of your family, or being the best you can be in your job. The truth is, we all have greatness in us – sometimes we just don’t see it, and waste time wishing for things to be different.