Get to “I Love You” with One Character
Far from Heaven (2002) is not an all-time great movie, but I confess I love it. Almost entirely for the ending, which to me is devastating.
I won’t spoil it for you except to say that our heroine (Julianne Moore as Cathy Whitaker, a 1950s suburban housewife) rides off into a very dark sunset.
And yet …
And yet it’s a happy ending.
I’ve wondered for a long time why this seemingly despairing finish is actually so uplifting. The answer struck me just now, writing this short series of “Get to ‘I Love You’” posts.
The protagonist in Far from Heaven does not get to “I love you” with any other character in the story.
But she does get there with herself.
There’s no scene that plays this transformation, at least not overtly. Cathy doesn’t have a moment when she looks into the mirror and her eyes meet the eyes of her reflection, or a scene where she literally verbalizes something to this effect.
But the movie does execute a great non-on-the-nose version of this. (Again, I won’t spoil it for you.)
Get to “I love you” with one character is, in the deepest sense, what we’re all seeking in life, isn’t it?
I had a letter just today from a young artist who was absolutely wallowing in self-loathing. Paralyzed to do her work. Hating herself. Seeing no way out.
Resistance is a mofo, ain’t it?
How much of our own self-disconnection, self-castigation, self-annihilation is straight-up Resistance?
Face who we are.
Act upon it.
Get to “I love you” with our own selves.
P.S. Far from Heaven has an interesting origin story. The film was written and directed by Todd Haynes (Carol, I’m Not There) who apparently has always been a fan of movies by the mid-century director Douglas Sirk (All that Heaven Allows, Imitation of Life), whose films were stylish, languorous, glamorous 1950s melodramas.
Todd Haynes got it into his head that he wanted to do a Douglas Sirk-like movie … today.
Far from Heaven was that.
What’s fascinating to me was that Mr. Haynes originally intended to stage scenes shot-for-shot, camera-move-for-camera-move the way Douglas Sirk did. In other words, to imitate Sirk’s style exactly. But he found, when he tried this, that audience attention spans (not to mention his own) had shortened so dramatically since the 50s that he absolutely couldn’t do it. He had to compress and speed up everything.
Anyway, that’s Far from Heaven. You may hate it, but I promise you’ll get the message in the climax.
The movie gets to “I love you” with one character.