Seeing Jena Malone reminds me of my childhood, of that time, very long ago, where I watched her in a movie about high school cheaters with my mom and sisters. I don’t recall anything about the movie, not even if I actually watched it from start to end, but I do recall my family sitting around the television, and Jena Malone’s face in it.
This morning I woke up thinking of her. Although I will think of her at least once during my day, be it by being reminded of her scent by a quick passerby or something she said by something I see, this memory was much more immediate. As the hours progressed I realized it was because I had dreamed of her the night before. The realization made me miserable. There I was, thousands of miles away, months removed from her kisses and completely unaware of the state of her life, and yet in my dreams she was as vivid as the cool breeze that swept the university campus at 11:30am. I sat down and cried for a while.
There are similar moments peppered throughout The English Patient. Count Laszlo de Almasy (Ralph Fiennes) lays in bed, burnt to a crisp, and gazes at nothing as he recalls fond memories of the woman he loves. And I thought to myself, “what that poor man must be feeling! what utter sadness his heart is drowned in!”
I think I blog because I want to be heard by someone who cares. Because there are feelings that I cannot express to someone but that I still need to share. So I write. Although the sole purpose of this page is movies, faithful readers know I rarely write movie reviews. I babble about what a film made me feel, or go on tangential thoughts regarding a particular theme, or something that a movie reminded me of. And right now, I want to write of how sad I am.
I watched this movie with a girl. I was extremely nervous, made a fool out of myself, made her uncomfortable and embarrassed myself. It has been one of the most painfully awkward experiences I can recall. I am sad, not for myself, for I already know I am weird, but for her. It was the look on her face as she said she was disappointed in me. It was that she does not deserve anything but the very best. And I failed her.
This week I asked one my coworkers whether or not she believed in romantic love. When she said she did not, I wanted to high five her in agreement, but I held my peace.
Immediately after my last girlfriend left, I renounced any and all ideas of love. I figured that if three years was not a strong enough bond to keep us together forever, then love had to either be a social construct or a delusion to keep people from not going insane when they are alone. I tried to convince myself that all the kisses given and smiles shared were just that, and they did not represent a higher plane of existence nor a happier state of being. Love is not real.
It’s been almost 4 years since my last relationship, and now, more than ever, I am convinced that love is real. One of the greatest joys of watching romance blossom in movies is how happy I get when a couple finds it. I am there with them, in the awkward hand holding and passionate kissing; I am grinning from ear to ear when they confess their love to each other, and feel the life go out of me when their relationship crumbles. I believe in love because I think it makes people happier. It doesn’t necessarily turn a sad person into a happy one, but it does bring things into their lives which make it feel more exciting. And if your life has more excitement, there is a slight chance you will go to your work nervous or giddy, which is much better than the monotony which we fall prey to far too often.
So I told the coworker I disagreed. I believe in love.
I may not have it yet, and perhaps I never will again. I am learning to live without it, and while admittedly difficult from time to time, I think it’s perfectly possible to remain single for the remainder of your life.
But don’t get me wrong. Love makes it better.
Hollywood has so romanticized love that I no longer know if my idea of an idyllic date was born in my mind, or if I gathered it from different scenarios present in several Hollywood pictures which show lovers on the beach, bench, bed, street, bar or back of a car.
The two are intertwined, and I might not be the only one affected by this ailment; Instagram and Tumblr, for instance, are filled to the brim with comments that praise the depictions of romantic love present in John Green adaptations and heartwarming quotes delivered by the guy/girl of the week.
With love now being mandatory instead of a choice, being single is viewed not as a natural part of life, but as a disease, whose host needs to either be cleansed or banned from the world of Hallmark cards and heart emojis.
How To Be Single then, is not only a breath of fresh air, but a shower in the desert. Or at least its potential is. As it stands, its half a sex comedy, half a find yourself inspirational. And while something memorable could have come from that, like the recent Sleeping with Other People so proved, this movie only confronts its heroine about the crux of the plot-she seeks her worth in others by being in love with the idea of love-during the final twenty minutes of the picture, with almost everything that preceded being wacky moments that happen to three different characters.
And yet, it is Valentine’s Day weekend. And I could have watched something that made me pine for what I do not have, instead of cheering for what I do.
That’s always a good day for me.
I find it humorous that a quote I think encapsulates the dilemma at the heart of this picture comes from an episode of Community, the postmodern comedy masterpiece which stars, coincidentally, Alison Brie.
“No woman, none of us have to go to anyone. And the idea that we do is a mental illness we contracted from breath mint commercials and Sandra Bullock.
We can’t keep going to each other until we learn to go to ourselves. Stop making our hatred of ourselves someone else’s job and just stop hating ourselves.”
What hurts the most about returning time and time again to somebody or something that is toxic to you is not the harm said someone gives you, but the realization that you are powerless to stop it. It’s not enough to be aware that you need to stop doing something, but figuring out where you are possibly going to acquire the strength to do it.
That scenario is very realistically portrayed here, and I really liked it.