Truly, Madly, Deeply (1991)
This is a film that I had loved in the past yet hadn’t watched in years. I think I was almost afraid to watch it again. Like when you have a favorite book you haven’t read in ages and you don’t want to risk the magic being spoilt. But when I decided to convert it from a tape I’d made, all those years ago, to a DVD, I crossed my fingers, held my breath and jumped.
The death of her boyfriend, Jamie (Alan Rickman), devastates Nina (Juliet Stevenson). Even months later, she cannot seem to overcome her grief despite all the efforts of her friends and coworkers. She’s going to weekly counseling sessions during which she pours out her loss and anger in great, gusty, heart wracking sobs which hurt to watch. But she doesn’t make any head way in moving past Jamie’s death.
Until one day she’s playing the piano and imagining that Jamie is accompanying her on his cello and, suddenly, he is. He’s there in her flat and she can experience him with all her senses. He’s really there. Dead but there. And she’s blissful and mysteriously unavailable to her friends for a reason she obviously can’t share. But is Jamie there to initiate the continuation of their interrupted life or is there some other reason?
This part was written for Juliet Stevenson, who is one of my favorite actresses, and she does it justice. She’s not afraid of, nor does she hold back, during the scenes when she’s required to sob to the point of a snotty nose and red eyes. She’s grief stricken and actually looks the part. But then if I were mourning the lovely Alan Rickman, with his voice which you can drown in, I’d be tearing through the Kleenex myself.
Here is a film about loss and mourning that isn’t afraid to wallow in it for a while. Yet the great thing is, it’s also a comedy of sorts. Nina’s flat is infested with rats, her plumbing doesn’t always work, her kitchen cabinets are askew and the sweetheart of a guy she meets during an immigration altercation in a local bistro coaxes her into a game of revealing their pertinent information during a hopping session down the sidewalks of London.
The funniest bits though, are the ghost friends whom Jamie brings back with him. Perpetually cold, they jack up the heat in the flat to just short of sweltering while they pass the time watching video tapes which leads to Nina’s famous quote : “I can’t believe I have a bunch of dead people watching videos in my living room.” They also rearrange her furniture, pictures and other knickknacks. And as their stay lengthens, Nina begins to remember things like how opinionated Jamie is – was – is, and can’t help but compare her life with a ghost to that of a friend who’s just given birth. Does she want to live a half life with Jamie or could she possibly be ready to move on?
The film never answers the questions of how and why Jamie comes back. If he indeed does really come back. Is it all a figment of Nina’s imagination? Is Jamie there for Nina or for himself? Wisely, the late Anthony Minghella, who both wrote and directed the film, lets the viewer decide. (And in a “shiver down your back” coincidence, he died at a relatively young age from a simple complication, just as Jamie did in the film)
I finished the film with a sigh and a heartfelt moment of relief. It is still as good as it was then. It still makes me tear up one minute and laugh the next. I’m still pissed that it’s only available as OOP and hideously expensive DVDs and VHS tapes. It’s still a film that I’d gladly buy a new copy of were it to re-released. Is anybody with the movie rights listening to that?