But while the film was close to my husband’s expectations, I think it was also better. My hubby was almost right about the plot—but not quite. Unlike most of the films listed above, the death in this film takes place early on the film and off screen. And the gist of the film is closer to that of Catch and Release or Always, two films (I really like) that deal with the effect of losing a lover and trying to make your way back into life. And I must admit, I don’t agree with the critics on this one; I think it is worth more than what most of them gave it. But perhaps that’s why I’m not one of them, heh.
The film opens some nine or so years into the lively and passionate marriage between Holly and Gerry, an Irishman who met, feel in love with and married Holly when they were both in the early 20s (“too young” to marry, according to both of their mothers). After the opening scenes and credits, however, we see Holly walk into her mother’s pub where they are holding a wake for Gerry, who’s died of a brain tumor. Holly is devastated and lost without Gerry—who, however, it turns out had a plan. Over the course of the film, Holly receives a series of letters Gerry wrote before he died that guide her back into life.
While the film isn’t overly substantial, it does deal with some significant themes. I loved how Gerry was all about enjoying life when and where you’re at. Early in the film, he chides Holly for lamenting about “waiting for life to begin,” trying to get her to see that she’s already smack dab in the middle of it. It’s a lesson I’ve been learning, this idea of living in the present, in the here-and now. If we don’t, we miss the important stuff. Not the least of which is what God is doing right now, around us.
I also appreciated the moment when Holly’s mother Patricia (played by Kathy Bates), abandoned herself in the realm of love, muses with her daughter about whether or not each of them is alone in this life. “So now, alone or not, you've got a walk ahead,” she tells Holly. “Thing to remember is if we're all alone, then we're all together in that too.” The relationship Holly has with her mother and friends are essential in her returning to life (and so it is in our own lives). Gerry’s letters guide her in ways they can’t (he knew her best), but it takes the relationships of here-and-now to help her to return. And Gerry knew that, too. In my experience, there are moments so dark, when God doesn’t seem to be anywhere near, that the comfort of another is beyond a precious gift, a reminder that we are indeed not alone. In reality, that comfort is the hands and arms of God, who is the origin and source of love from whom we love (even if he himself seems absent).
Ultimately, I think this is a story about healing. In the end, Holly embraces life as good, even though she lost the man who loved her and she loved most. We see the power of being able to love and be loved overcome death. We see the power of good to overcome darkness. We see life does out. We need stories like these—or, at least, I do. Stories like this remind me that in the darkness comes light, out of death comes life and how deeply powerful are the relationships we walk with in it all. It’s not a profound film, but it’s a cathartic one. In some ways, it’s safer, allowing us to confront the loss and unjustness associated with loss and death while knowing how it will end—or, at least, how we know it should end.
And I must admit, the soundtrack is wonderful. I downloaded about eight songs from the collection (my favorite right now being the Pogues’—ironically, a fav band of my hubby, heh—Love You ‘Till the End).
Would my husband have liked the film? Heh, I’m not sure. I sure did cry. A lot. Most of the way through the movie, in fact. But I really liked this film, too.
Note: the film is rated PG-13 and contains sexual situations and language as well as foul language.
(Images: Warner Bros)