Wednesday evening, after a hectic day, I decided to go out and see a movie. Realizing that a movie featuring Joan Plowright, one of my favorite actresses, who (in her recent roles) reminds me of my late grandmother, my beloved Memaw, had a limited run at a nearby “Art House” theater, I decided to see Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont. After working out, writing a few e-mails (and commenting to this blog), I grabbed the Calendar Section of my LA Times and dashed out, heading to a Starbucks to replenish my dwindling supply of coffee and to grab a sandwich.
As I sat down to check the time of the flick, I was quite literally arrested by a picture on the front page of the Calendar section. Tears welled up as I looked at the lion Aslan and Edmund (Skandar Keynes) from the Disney/Walden Media adaptation of one of my favorite books from childhood, C.S. Lewis‘ The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. That powerful image (seen on right-hand side of this page) reminded me of the relationship between the erring Edmund and the wise Aslan in that story. That Aslan could understand and forgive the boy because he recognized his youth and humanity.
Perhaps that was what got me. Or perhaps it was just that the picture so perfectly captured an image from my childhood imagination, reminding me of how much I enjoyed such stories as a boy.
That was not the only image that night which would move me to tears. While I found much of Mrs. Palfrey to be plodding and stagy, I was truly impressed with Lady Olivier’s (Plowright is the widow of the great Sir Laurence Olivier) performance. When Mrs. Palfrey speaks about her late husband Arthur, we know that this woman had once had a great love. I was delighted that her favorite poet is my favorite poet, William Wordsworth.
In the movie, she befriends Ludovic Meyer (the fetching Rupert Friend), a young writer unable to find a story. She becomes the grandmother he never had while he replaces her own negligent grandson. Much as some of the scenes affected me, the movie, by and large, left me cold until the concluding sequence. And then it got me and wouldn’t let go.
WARNING TO THOSE WHO INTEND TO SEE THE FILM, I GIVE AWAY SOME DETAILS ABOUT THE FILM’S ENDING BELOW
When she told the young man the name of her favorite song, he sang it for her which surprised her, moving her to tears. Later, as she lays dying in a hospital, he tries to recite Wordsworth’s “Daffodils” to her. When he cannot remember all the words, she recites them from memory. I had read that very poem at my grandmother’s funeral, a beloved woman who, in memory, seems so much like Joan Plowright.
And the tears flowed.
Many who read the LA Times on Wednesday — or who otherwise saw the image of Aslan and Edmund — likely did not have the same reaction as did I. For them, it was just another pretty picture. Perhaps without the reminder to the serendipity of that beautiful poem and the death of a beloved grandmother, others might not be as moved by its recitation in this film.
I think that’s why certain movies move some of us to tears while leaving others cold. It’s not merely what’s in these images, but what they wake up in us. How they remind us of the sweet images of our childhood or the tender affection of a loving grandmother. We love those movies which tell stories which correspond to our most cherished memories and our deepest hopes. Whose characters remind us of the people we’ve loved, the affection and/or guidance we’ve missed, the relationships we’ve longed for, in short, they frequently remind us of the things which matter most.
And as those experiences differ from individual to individual, so too do favorite movies, favorite stories, favorite images differ from individual to individual.
Just as Mrs. Palfrey’s chance meeting with Ludo (when she falls outside his “flat”) arouses his interest in her and allows her to better reconnect to her own past, very often images — and movies — do the same for us. They remind of us of the beauties which lie within and of the friendships and relationships which have enriched and sustained our lives.
-Dan (AKA GayPatriotWest): GayPatriotWest@aol.com