A Hard Road

Hopefully marriage isn't looking to the film industry to handle its PR. Because, yowza.

Over the past few weeks in preparation for the AcadeMolly Awards, I've had the opportunity to watch several really moving films centered on married couples.  What several of the films have in common is their protagonist's struggle to survive while a relationship crumbles.  I was reminded of something I heard a pastor say once, "You know who's most likely to struggle in marriage? People who get married." There is no doubt marriage is hard and the film industry is not afraid to show us just how hard.

Blue Valentine was the first of the bunch.  We're introduced to Dean and Cindy in the middle of their story.  Neither character seems particularly likable and they have reached a "just survive today" point in their marriage.  As the plot unfolds we become privy to the heart wrenching circumstances that transformed these individuals into a family. Instantly, for me, this was a love worth rooting for and a relationship that deserved the hard work.  Writer/Director Derek CianFrance creates two characters responsible for the broken beauty of their past and numbing pain of their present.  Fantastically acted by Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine will squash your misconceptions about happily ever after while tempting you to hope for it anyway. 

The next entry in my "I need a Prozac" film festival was John Cameron Mitchell's Rabbit Hole.  Becca and Howie (played achingly by Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart) are barely surviving life since a tragic accident killed their four year old son.  After just eight months they have only scratched the surface of their guilt, anger, longing and powerlessness.  The film chronicles how each attempts to tread water as their grief slowly tries to drown them. At times, their marriage seems to be a weight pushing them under instead of a life raft for safety.  It's only during the brief glimpses of their continued commitment to one another that the viewer is offered even a sliver of hope for their future. Rabbit Hole is a beautifully filmed piece of work.  It's a wonder the way Mitchell achieves an almost light and airy tone despite the crushing weight of the film's subject matter.

Winner for best picture at this year's Golden Globes, The Kids Are All Right is billed as a comedy.  Call me crazy but I have a tough time laughing at a disintegrating family.  I don't find deceit, alcohol abuse and heartbreak anything to laugh about.  Nic and Jules, while billed as heads of a "non-traditional" family, sure manage to step into pretty "traditional" land mines in their marriage.  Their family is thrown into chaos and turmoil when their son and daughter seek out and befriend their sperm donor. Then hilarity (?) ensues as he attempts to worm his way into their family unit.  His presence only serves to amplify pre-existing issues between "Moms" and then creates new problems for the entire family unit.  The cast is outstanding.  Annette Benning, who also won a Golden Globe for her role, somehow manages to be both loathsome and sympathetic simultaneously.  At times, this film was painful to watch and not because it is poorly done.  The Kids Are All Right tackles universal, relatable family issues but just wraps them up in a "non-traditional" package.

If there's one film that I've seen recently that caused me to say to myself, "Man, I hope that's how our marriage looks in 20 years," it's Another Year.  Mike Leigh somehow manages {wink, wink} to make marriage appealing in his latest film.  Gerri and Tom are a couple who seemingly enjoy one another's company!  They share interests, encourage each other and even keep one another in check during times of stress.  Although they are surrounded by a gaggle of family and friends plagued by unhappiness, the couple finds shelter and comfort in their relationship.  It's no wonder that we are introduced to the couple years into their relationship.  Certainly it is through their tireless commitment and willingness to wade through life together as a team that they have developed the palpable comradery, respect and passion that they share.  Who knows, perhaps if any of the characters in the previous films survive the ghastly drama in which they are embroiled they too can hope for a solid relationship like that of Gerri and Tom someday.

Have you ever come across a movie relationship that you find appealing?