Cathy and I watched Truly, Madly, Deeply yesterday. The whole thing is on YouTube. I can’t say I enjoyed it even though it was good. I think I would say I found it upsetting. You can watch it if you feel like crying. That’s my recommendation.
What should I say about it; this film about grief?
It was Minghella’s first film as a director and he said he wrote it specifically with Juliet Stevenson in mind; like a tailor making her clothes. She is incredibly good. Her grief, and her relief, and pretty much everything she does is amazing. As is the writing. The writing carries what could be a terrible story: a woman – Nina – grieves for her dead partner – Jamie – until he actually comes back, hilarity ensues. Not that it’s exactly a riot this film. It is about grief after all.
Even when Jamie first returns to Nina the film manages somehow, in its moment of joy, to also be incredibly sad because although Jamie’s return is everything Nina wants it is something that is not true. Even though it is actually true within the movie – he really does come back – we sense that it will not work out, and that sense makes Nina’s experience just like everyone else’s experience of grief: no matter how much you want the dead to return they won’t. But the moment of greatest joy in the movie is also unfair. Can I say that? Can I say that I felt jealous: how dare Nina get this chance! How much I would like to meet my ghosts again. How I would greedily devour their company, and do all the little inconsequential things I have longed to do with them again, if they were to return. How I might want to have breakfast – porridge and brown sugar – in the way I always had breakfast with them, or sit up late with Sinatra and wine in the way I often did. So it is unfair watching Nina have the chance I would dearly like and it makes me taste a little bitterness in the joy.
Is it sadder still when Jamie says goodbye? This part of the film being, I suppose, about the diminishment of grief and the return to life for the living. Forgetting in other words. Forgetting feels like the next terrible thing after grief. It feels like betrayal. But it also feels like the only possible way. The living must go on living even if they don’t, for a time, really want to. The alternative – that you live with the dead; bring the dead to life in so far as you can – closes you off to everyone and everything. It kills you too. So, eventually, you resume, even if the resumption is not – on the surface – worth it. Life, after all, is often a collection of mundane events that are barely noticed and quickly forgotten. We contribute nought to the world but our companionship to those who know us, but that companionship – as little as it seems; built of moments of nothing – turns out to be everything.
And now, of course, we have the fact of Alan Rickman’s death inside this film about his character’s death. We bring him back to life, collectively, watching his old films, and reading and writing, and then we begin to forget. Again.
But not yet.