At first Topper seems normal---a doting uncle asking the second opinion of his adorable nephew just before he heads off to school. You think nothing of the fact Topper sends him off with a package to mail, nor of the fact he declines the offer to ride with him to school. It isn't until he lingers by the window, an unexpected longing written on his face, that you begin to question things. Soon Topper attempts to cross the threshold of the bike shop out onto the sidewalk, immediately flashing back to a traumatizing siege at the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan, calling out for "Sandy." It's too much.
Then you realize: he's trapped.
Suddenly the cot in the background makes sense. Topper, a bike shop repairmen, suffers from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) which has rendered him unable to leave the bike shop. He restores the ability of others to travel and experience life. Wounded by what he has experienced outside the four walls of the shop, Topper is unable to travel and experience life himself. In fact, he even enlists his nephew to be a “lookout” of sorts, to go before him and ensure he doesn’t encounter anything unexpected.
Sharply dressed, highly intelligent and functional, Oliver O'Toole seemed to have it all together. Yet from the very beginning, Oliver was more or less trapped inside the four walls of the dead letter office, living vicariously through each and every letter and package that passed through his division, all the while failing to live himself. Over time, we come to discover Oliver suffers from PTSD of his own, predicated on abandonment and heartbreak inflicted by the only women "who...truly mattered" in his life. Convinced that "reading about it is better," as Cora put it in The Masterpiece, Oliver experienced the "power and passion of life" without needing to leave the confines of the DLO to do so.
In Lost Without You, this idea is reinforced through Joe’s retelling of the last time Oliver was in the woods. Witnessing his parents fight left Oliver “absolutely heartbroken” and so scared to go back into the mountains that Joe found him a way to “go to the forest without actually having to go to the forest,” through the bird song album.
What Topper and Oliver saw "outside" broke them somehow, causing them to hide inside a box, away from the unpredictability of life, rather than risk being wounded again.
Sandy and Topper’s partnership made them the “the best team...ever trained” to do support operations on the front-lines in Afghanistan, but more than that they were best friends who needed each other to live, especially after the trauma they suffered together.
Their love and loyalty to one another had no boundaries, except Topper’s inability to buy her from the company, allowing them to live out their days together. It was also their deep connection that reunited them, their story compelling Norman to purchase Sandy and return her to Topper, their connection the key to saving him from a life confined to the four walls of the bike shop.
Much like Topper and Sandy, Shane and Oliver took to each other almost immediately, becoming dance partners and developing a very close friendship, one that made them a very good team both professionally and personally. Much like she would "hack until Kingdom Come if that’s what it [took] to find Sandy before it’s too late,” she would do the same for Oliver if ever the time came. And then that day arrived.
It was her instinct that Monday after Joe and Oliver failed to return from their camping trip that caused Shane to act on love and loyalty herself, attempting to track Oliver and Joe down first at his Joe’s house, then enlisting Dale, and in the end, even enlisting God to bring Oliver and Joe back safely. She did everything she could to save their lives. And save lives she did---in more ways than one.
When Oliver whispers “Thank you for saving my life” in the chapel, he isn’t merely referring to calling in the cavalry to get him and his father off the mountain, he’s referring to the deeper truth that if it wasn’t for Shane, Oliver would still be “living in limbo” instead of “living his life.” From the day she arrived at the DLO, Shane challenged Oliver to “think outside the mailbox,” slowly but surely drawing him out of his hiding place in the process, just as Sandy did for Topper. The other emotional reunion of this film, their deep connection is on full display and for the first time mutually acknowledged.
Ready To Seek,