Saturday, December 19, 2009
Love actually...is all around us.
This afternoon I indulged in my annual guilty pleasure of viewing the film "Love Actually." The film is a favorite of mine, and a favorite of Widow in the Middle. It is one of those romantic comedies that tug at the heart, has a great soundtrack, and includes something for everyone to identify with. It is also the kind of film that Michael just didn't always appreciate.
Michael had a bit of a snide attitude about romantic comedies, as he felt they made life look better than it was. He often commented that films that depicted families gathering for the holidays were so over the top happy, and nobody's family acted that way. I would just look over at him and say, "honey, that's what it felt like to me growing up, not necessarily how it actually was." I think for Michael life had been a bit more difficult, or perhaps disappointing. He felt like there was no truth to the fairy tales, or to the modern day romantic comedies. Yet, in time, I believe he came around to my way of thinking.
"Love Actually" came out in theatres in 2003, which was a few years before Michael and I met. For those who may not be familiar with the story line, the film is about love, both romantic and platonic, at various stages in life. There are many inter-connected characters from which each story is told. In 2003 I was been a single parent, and had been for many years. For much of that time I longed to be in a relationship, but felt that it would never truly happen for me. My day to day life was quite complicated due to the special needs of my children. I often thought that even if I did find someone, how would I incorporate him into the less than storybook life that my children and I lived.
In the film there is a very tragic character, Sarah, played by Laura Linney. Sarah has been "secretly" in love with a coworker, Karl, for over two years. On this one afternoon Sarah's boss calls her into his office to ask her when she is going to do something about her feelings for Karl. To Sarah's horror her boss confirms that not only is everyone in the office aware of her feelings, so is the equally shy Karl. What we soon learn about Sarah is that her life is complicated by the needs of her mentally ill brother. It is truly heartbreaking when Sarah and Karl find themselves in the throws of their long awaited passion, only to be disrupted by her brother's never ending phone calls. We see how difficult it is for Sarah to put her own needs before those of her brother.
Suffice to say, I deeply identified with the character of Sarah. My 16 year old son has suffered from mental illness from a very young age. From early one, my life became ruled by the need to constantly respond to one crisis after another. When I saw this film, and saw the depiction of the character of Sarah, I became quite bothered. It frustrated me that Sarah appeared victimized by her inability to set limits. I wanted so badly for her storyline to end differently, yet I only had to look in the mirror to know her truth, my truth.
Imagine my surprise a few years later, when I met a wonderful man who wasn't scared off by my having three children. For some reason, Michael was able to see me, to fall in love with me. He was also able to embrace the kids and I as a family, and choose to become part of it. Love actually did happen.
Today's viewing put me in the position to identify with a different character, the character of Daniel. Daniel, played by Liam Neeson, is a very recent widower. In fact, his character is introduced at the funeral of his wife. The irony is of course that Liam Neeson is also now a recent widower. Tragic how life can turn on a dime. Last year when I sat through my annual viewing of the DVD, I wondered if I would be a widower by the next year. By this time last year I already knew that Michael's tumor had returned, and that his chances for survival was decreasing. It was a reality, and yet it wasn't. There is a difference between actually knowing, and actually feeling.
There is a scene in the film where Daniel is in the kitchen of a friend, talking about his deceased wife, when he is hit with an unexpected wave of grief. Daniel is suddenly engulfed in tears. I'm sure that when Liam Neeson shot that scene he never imagined that he would actually one day be living it. None of us do. Even when we have a forewarning about what is to come, we can't fully know what it will feel like.
For Michael and I, we knew what the future likely held, but we tried our best not to get caught up in feeling it. When I think back over our time together as a couple, and as a family, I can see that the reality was not like it is in the movies. It was far more complicated, far more difficult. Cancer is neither romantic, nor comic. Yet what we had felt like a romantic comedy. In spite of the reality, we chose to experience each day with laughter, love and plenty of romance.
Love Actually...was all around us.