June 10, 2008

Rising from the Ashes

Don't read ahead unless you are ready to hear spoilers about this interesting little movie. OK. you've been warned...

Alternately depressing and encouraging, this 2006 film is a remake of a tear jerker thirty years old. In place of Peter Falk and Jill Clayburgh, we have Dermot Mulroney and Amanda Peet starring as two folks each with a terrible secret: terminal illness. It's a horrible but not unexpected twist on the old "Boy meets Girl, Boy loses Girl" story.

It is a warm, and at times, funny film. For its modern sensibilities (including the now mandatory nod to Viagra), it remains an old fashioned tale of love and loss and death. The main characters, whose names are also the title of the movie, Griffin and Phoenix attempt to enjoy what's left of their lives while coming to grips with what they will miss.

Amanda Peet (Phoenix) is absolutely wonderful as the young woman who painfully understands, as much as she would like, she will never have a child. (Her encounter with an emotionally burned out mother is a heartbreaking scene.) This is her movie, and she brings the substance and soul to it. Dermot Mulroney (Griffin) plays the part he always seems to, the likeable and easy going boyfriend. Yet, even his character finally reaches a melting point, bringing his performance above the ordinary. There's good chemistry here, and the film wisely keeps its focus on these two versus adding subplots and more in depth secondary characters.

Once I got past the bait and switch from what was marketed as a sweet little, Disney happy, chick flick, here's the part that really struck me: once each of their secrets are out, these lovers never discuss what happens to them after death. There is no questioning of their future, their purpose, the existence of a heaven or a hell or any kind of afterlife. It is as if their physical bodies are everything that defines them. 

Even in our culture obsessed with looks and youth and living for today, I have not met one single person who hasn't wrestled with the questions of immortality when contemplating their own impending death. What a disservice to the viewer. This forgotten aspect of the film shortchanges the depth of the characters and keeps the story a somewhat shallow virtual reality.

In some small way, I suppose, this is a clear and significant representation of many people. We are an enlightened new century, yet easily missing the simple truth of life: we all must die. It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking life as we know it will continue on indefinitely. I often forget about the true reality- an eternal reality, instead focusing on the here and now and what is just ahead on tomorrow's calendar.

We are so much more than just what happens between our birthday and our funeral. May we remember that death is our doorway, not our ending. Its just the beginning of a new reality, a new eternal existence. One spent with or without the Creator who loves us and gave His Son for us. The book of Hebrews says it directly:

"Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him."

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