I have many favorite scenes and character moments throughout The Old Guard, and one of them happens at the beginning.
Booker finds Andy on her way to the hotel in Morocco, and as they greet each other, she gives him a first edition Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes. One immediately assumes Booker (hence, the nickname) enjoys literature, but there’s so much more meaning behind this particular moment.
Oftentimes, writers put specific books in scenes because this helps inform the character’s state of mind or reflects what’s happening in the story. That’s exactly what’s happening here with Andy and Booker.
The Netflix Film Club summarized this connection best in the “Small Details You Missed in The Old Guard” video released earlier this summer.
At first, this seems like a cute moment between friends, but it’s more than just a throwaway scene. As viewers soon learn, Don Quixote has a number of thematic parallels with The Old Guard, particularly as it relates to Andy’s emotional journey through the movie.
Don Quixote, which was first published in 1605, tells the story of a delusional noble who thinks that he’s a wandering knight and that regular situations are actually part of an epic, heroic quest. With his “squire” Sancho Panza at his side, Quixote embarks on a series of misadventures – mostly famous, of course, attacking a bunch of windmills that he mistakes for giants. It all adds up to the tale of a man who fights to try and make the world a better place, but whose efforts end up being nothing more than a waste of time.
Similarly, at the beginning of The Old Guard, Andy decides that her centuries-long crusade against evil has been futile, and that she hasn’t accomplished a thing. Throw in some similarities between Sancho and Booker – both characters are sidekicks who aren’t quite what they seem – and the Don Quixote moment suddenly make a lot more sense. It isn’t just a quick piece of character building. It’s a roadmap to The Old Guard‘s most important emotional arc.
Don Quixote is such a fascinating choice for this scene because he sees the world differently and he believes he can make a difference by adhering to a chivalric code. It’s almost endearing, even when his good intentions tend to come across as harmful acts to the people he meets.
Regardless, from his point of view, he believes he’s doing good and that he’s committing these acts with noble intentions. Andy operates in a similar way, and she’s been doing this for thousands of years. Don Quixote eventually abandons his chivalric ambition, just like Andy. With the harsh reality of the world chipping away at her convictions, she starts to feel like her actions with her team aren’t making the world better, and as a result, she loses purpose.
And as for Booker, we know he’s a good person, but like Sancho Panza, he also has his faults. Sancho is also the only character who operates both in and outside of Don Quixote’s world, and similarly, Booker understands Andy’s misery when she’s in the game (participating in team missions and feeling like their actions don’t have an impact) and when she’s outside of it (her personal grief over losing Quynh). Their mutual pain is what drives him to make terrible decisions that endanger the people closest to him.
What did you think of the Don Quixote mention in the movie? What other similarities do you see between Don Quixote and The Old Guard?
Featured Image: Skydance Media, Netflix