Movie: Aurora Borealis (2005)
Starring: Joshua Jackson, Juliette Lewis, Donald Sutherland, Louise Fletcher, Steven Pasquale
Synopsis: Duncan is a twenty something, who has never really gotten over his father’s death ten years earlier. He lives in Minneapolis, where he’s lived his whole life and is unemployed. When his grandparents, Ron and Ruth, move to the city to be near Duncan and his brother, Duncan does’t want to visit them. Their grandfather is Ronald is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, and Duncan doesn’t want to see him like that. However his brother guilts him into visiting their new apartment, where Duncan actually ends up getting a job as a handyman. He also meets Kate, Ron’s home healthcare worker, and they hit it off right away. Duncan takes on some responsibility (for perhaps the first time in his life) in taking care of his grandfather. However Ron sees that Duncan is still tied to his past and fears moving on from the town that he grew up in. When Kate is presented with an opportunity in California, she asks Duncan to come with her. Duncan loves Kate. He wants to be with her and believes that they have a real shot at a future together. But he also has ghosts and past trauma that he needs to put to rest, before he can move on and be with the woman he loves.
My Thoughts: I’d never heard of this movie and I rented the DVD on the library because it looked like it could be halfway decent. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I ended up liking it. For one thing, even though when we initially meet Duncan he’s rather immature and selfish, we still like him. He’s got a sense of humor and his heart is in the right place. He just needs people in his life that are willing to help him out of the rut he’s in. Ron and Kate both play a role in that. Ron knows that his live is coming to an end. He’s had decent run- he and Ruth enjoyed a long, happy marriage. They lost their son, but they are close to both of their grandsons, as well as their great grandchildren (Duncan’s brother’s kids). He wants Duncan to have a fulfilling life as well. Meanwhile Kate has (arguably) more selfish reasons for wanting to push Duncan out of his rut: she’s in love with him and she wants a life with him. But that can’t happen if Duncan is stuck in the past. I think that Kate is a character who could have been a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, helping Duncan with his growth without being much of a character herself. But there’s more to her than that. She’s got some issues too, that Duncan calls her on. In this case she’s right- Duncan does need to movie on, but she has trouble settling down. Until she meets someone she wants to settle down with. In a way this is about two romances. We see Ron and Ruth’s love story come to an end, as Ron deteriorates. But we also see his last as as allowing Duncan and Kate’s love story to begin.
Movie: Death Takes A Holiday (1934)
Starring: Fredric March, Evelyn Venable, Guy Standing
Synopsis: Death- The Grim Reaper- has spent years wondering why people are so afraid of him. He appreciates the beauty of the world, but it sure doesn’t appreciate him back! In order to find out why people are so reluctant to leave the world (even after a long life), Death decides to take a vacation. He plans to live as a human, among humans for a few days. Duke Lambert has a guest coming to visit him and his family at their villa. It’s a perfect excuse to pose as Prince Sirki, whom no one in the family knows. Prince Sirki is a bit odd perhaps but charming.
Duke Lambert’s son, Corrado is in love with a girl named Grazia. Even though Grazia loves Corrado she is reluctant to marry him for reasons she can’t quite explain, except to say that she feels “far away” from him somehow. However when she meets Prince Sirki, Grazia feels drawn to him, and completely unafraid, even when she sees him in his true form. Death loves Grazia as well, and for the first time he realizes why people fear leaving the world, and why they beg for more time: it’s because they are reluctant to leave the people they love. But now he faces a decision; does he take Grazia with him when he leaves, or sacrifice his own happiness so that she can live.
My Thoughts: This was based on a play by Alberto Casella with which I’m not very familiar. It’s also It was remade in 1971 TV film starring Yvette Mimieux, Monte Markham, and Myrna Loy. In 1998 it was remade again as Meet Joe Black (which I’m planning a post on shortly). It was also adapted as a musical by Maury Yeston in 2011.
I think that the reason that this resonates as a story is because it really tackles what makes us human? All Death has ever experienced of the world is the fear we have on leaving it- but naturally he’s perplexed. What can be so great that we dread leaving it so much? Aren’t all people really just biding their time until he comes anyway? After all, he’s bound to come for everyone sooner or later. The answer turns out to be twofold: we are reluctant to be torn away from the people we love, but once we’ve truly loved, then even death isn’t so fearsome.
Grazia as a character is a bit odd. She seems rather ethereal and otherworldly from the beginning. She also courts Death in a sense- like by encouraging Corrado to drive faster than is safe, because she says it feels like flying. She falls in love with Prince Sirki, and when she sees him in his “true form” she says he looks exactly the same as always to her. She seems almost caught in a world where she doesn’t belong and is often on the verge of escaping. Perhaps that’s when Death appeals to her so much, and her to him.
One reviewer called this film “delicately morbid” which I think is a very apt description. We can see it in many different ways: we can interpret Grazia as a dark, suicidal character for loving Death so much (though that’s not really how she’s presented), we can also see Death as a kindly friend, who has been misinterpreted as an enemy. He has wisdom to offer humans but they have wisdom to offer him too. He’s naive in someways, in spite of being an all powerful entity. As he says “I am a great power, and yet I am humble before you”
Movie: Dangerous Beauty (1998)
Starring: Catherine McCormack, Rufus Sewell, Oliver Platt, Jacqueline Bisset, Naomi Watts
Synopsis: Veronica Franco is a intelligent, slightly tomboyish young woman in Venice. She is in love with Marco, and he with her. However they are forbidden to marry because Veronica’s family cannot produce a sufficient dowry. Marco is pushed to marry a foreign noblewoman instead. Veronica considers entering a convent but her mother has a better idea that will secure the entire family’s financial future: Veronica will become a courtesan. At first Veronica refuses. However when she learns that courtesans have access to education and libraries the idea begins to sound more appealing. She quickly becomes the most celebrated courtesan in Venice. She is in demand as much for her brains and her beauty. Meanwhile Marco is jealous. He is unhappy in his new marries and hates the idea of his friends and relatives receiving Veronica’s “favors”. He asks her to stop seeing clients and accept his exclusive financial support. She rejects the idea, unwilling to sacrifice her independence for a sort of faux-wife status. However she does spend a lot of time with Marco, neglecting her business and other clients. When war breaks out, Venice needs the aid of France and Veronica is asked to seduces the French king. She soon becomes entangled in the city’s political alliances. But when the plague comes, and accusations of witchcraft abound, Veronica is faced with a new, even greater, danger.
My Thoughts: This film is based on a true story. I don’t know how much is true, because I don’t know much about the real Veronica Franco, but if you’re interested you can learn more here. Just to avoid confusion, the film was also released under the title A Destiny of Her Own in some regions, and was re-titled The Honest Courtesan for the UK video release. However, Dangerous Beauty is the title by which it’s best known.
I really like Veronica as a heroine for a period romance because she’s glamorous and romantic but also smart and fiercely independent. Faced with a very restricted society she takes her life into her own hands in the only way she’s allowed. While we tend to view prostitution as degrading, it’s Veronica’s only way of getting an education and being with the man she loves. More than that she’s able to be with him on her own terms: not as a mistress or a wife, but as she dictates. She deals with fear, superstition and jealousy but she holds her own.
Movie: The Butcher’s WIfe (1991)
Starring: Demi Moore, Jeff Daniels, George Dzundza, Mary Steenburgen,
Synopsis: Marina grew up on a tiny North Carolina called Oracoke. She believes that she is clairvoyant, so when she has a dream that tells her she will meet the man predestined to be her husband, she trusts it. That man turns out to be Leo Lemke, a New York City butcher. They quickly get married and Marina goes back to New York with Leo and works in his butcher shop. There she helps his customers with their problems and tries to chart their destinies and give advice. However there are two key things that she fails to notice. One, is that her customer/friend Sheila, a frustrated singer, is in love with Leo. The other is that she’s falling for the overly analytic Dr. Alec Trevor, a psychiatrist, neighbor and skeptic.
My Thoughts: I’d never heard of this movie when I watched it so I really went in with no expectations. It’s not great cinema and it doesn’t try to be. It’s a gentle sweet romantic comedy with a touch of fantasy thrown in. I enjoyed the portrayal of a cozy side street in Manhattan as well. In films the NYC is often depicted as busy and overwhelming crazy. It can be all those things. But there are neighborhoods where people can be very friendly, and where things aren’t very touristy. There’s some culture shock for Marina but not that much. The focus is more on the lives and loves of the people Marina meets and helps and how destiny indirectly leads her to her own true love.
Demi Moore is kind of an odd choice for Marina. In the early 1990’s I’d have cast someone like Meg Ryan (who was originally cast in the role but dropped out for unknown reasons) or even Nicole Kidman. Though Demi does pull off the curly blonde hair surprisingly well, her North Carolina accent sounds a bit iffy. But since it’s not an accent I’m all that familiar with I can’t say for sure. I just noticed it slipping a few times. Still this is a very nice movie to watch if your in the mood for some fantasy and whimsy mixed with your rom com.
Movie: Love Happens (2009)
Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Jennifer Aniston, Frances Conroy, Dan Folger, Martin Sheen, Judy Greer
Synopsis: Burke Ryan is a successful self help guru. His book about dealing with the grief following the death of a loved on is a best seller, and his seminars are sold out. The only problem is that, since his wife died in a car accident several years earlier, Burke hasn’t dealt with his grief at all. He’s estranged from her family, drinks heavily, won’t ride in elevators, and has mood swings. While giving a workshop in Seattle (his late wife’s hometown) Burke is haunted by unresolved issues. He runs into Eloise, a floral designer, who does arrangements for the hotel in which he’s staying. Burke is attracted to her- the first time he’s been attracted to someone in a long time! She initially gives him the brush off but eventually consents to go to dinner with him. The date goes badly, and Burke admits he’s out of practice. He then tells her it was his first date since his divorce! She’s understanding, and gives him another chance. But why wasn’t he able to tell her the truth? When she does find out, Eloise begins to do what Burke does for many other people: resolve his past grief, so that he can be open to new love.
My Thoughts: I didn’t have high expectations for this movie. It looked like a standard Hollywood paint by numbers romance. But one thing that I found interesting was that even though he doesn’t follow his own advice about working through grief, Burke is able to legitimately help others. He’s not a con artist in the sense that he delivers what he promises: help with dealing with loss. On the other hand, he is a conning himself. He tells himself he’s got it together, but as Eloise says “you’re really messed up”! It’s Eloise who helps him follow his own advice.
This movie reminded me of Bed for Roses for several reasons. Obviously the fact that a major character is a florist and another is a widower are commonalities. But the theme of moving beyond past mistakes in order to really experience love is prevalent in both.
Movie: Fanny (1961)
Starring: Leslie Caron, Horst Buchholz, Maurice Chevalier, Charles Boyer
Synopsis: In the early 1920’s Cesar and his son, Marius, are both barkeepers in Marseilles. However the only thing that 19 year old Marius can think of is going off to sea and having adventures. Fanny, who sells fish with her mother down by the waterfront has been in love with Marius since they were children. She often flirts with him, but is constantly disappointed. Meanwhile, Panisse is a wealthy elderly gentleman who sees that Fanny loves Marius but wants to marry her anyway. However Fanny rejects his proposal. She tells Marius that she loves him and she’ll wait for him when he goes off to sea. Marius finally confesses his love for Fanny as well- she’s the reason he hasn’t sailed off long ago. But now he’s signed on to sail on a five year scientific expedition. He and Fanny vow to be true and they make love. When Fanny’s mother walks in on them in bed together the next morning, she and Cesar are ready to plan their children’s wedding. But Fanny tells Marius to go on the expedition- she would rather marry the wealthy Panisse. This is of course a lie, she’s really afraid that if he doesn’t go he’ll always regret it and resent her. When, two months later, Fanny discovers she’s pregnant as a result of her one night with Marius, Panisse offers again to marry her and raise the baby as his own. This time she accepts. Since Cesar knows that he’s really the baby’s grandfather they make him the godfather. The baby is named Cesario Marius Panisse. A year after he is born, Marius returns home for a short visit. He figures out the baby is his, and apologizes to Fanny telling her that he understands why she lied to him and made him go- it was because she loves him. He tells Fanny he wants her back. But before she can give him an answer Panisse returns home. He tells Fanny that she’s free to go with Marius, but the baby stays with him, knowing that she’d never leave the baby. And so Marius leaves once again. It’s another nine years before Marius returns to Marseilles, and when he does, things are very different once again.
My Thoughts: This was based on a trilogy of novels by Marcel Pagnol; Marius (1929), Fanny (1932), and Cesar (1936). Pagnol adapted each of these for the stage, and then for the screen. In 1954 Fanny was made into a stage musical. This film kept the music from the stage version, but omitted all songs, using it instead as the underscore for the soundtrack. Several versions of Pagnol’s trilogy had been filmed prior to this adaptation Unfortunately they’re hard to find, and I so I can’t really compare this to anything. I can only take it for what it is, which is a lovely stand alone film.
Audrey Hepburn, who had played Fanny on stage in a nonmusical version of the play, was originally cast in the role for this. However she had to leave due to scheduling conflicts. I would have loved to see Audrey in this role. But I suppose Leslie Caron is a good replacement: she has a similar gamine quality.
The film also has stunning scenery of southern France. The story is similar, in many ways to The Umbrellas of Cherbourg- another film of the same time period, with a similar setting and conflict. However while all the dialogue in Umbrellas of Cherbourg is sung, Fanny cuts out all the songs from the stage musical. In spite of the candy colors Umbrellas has a more somber tone while Fanny has more joie de vivre. Also while Umbrellas is ultimately tragic, Fanny has an ending that leaves you with both a lump in your throat and hope for the future.
Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=66ZzTpmfzkA (sort of an odd trailer…)
Movie: The Edge of Love (2008)
Starring: Keira Knightly, Sienna Miller, Cillian Murphy, Matthew Rhys
Synopsis: In WWII London, singer Vera Phillips runs into her childhood sweetheart, poet, Dylan Thomas. The old spark is still there in spite of the fact that Dylan is now married, to a woman named Caitlin and they have a child together. But despite the initial rivalry, Vera and Caitlin become fast friends. Meanwhile, soldier WIlliam Killick has fallen for Vera, and she marries him shortly before he goes off to battle. Vera isn’t 100% sure of her feelings for him, but she is pregnant with his child. After the baby is born she and the Thomas’ go to the Welsh countryside to raise their children away from the war in neighboring cottages. However, despite her friendship with Caitlin and her marriage to William, Vera allows herself to be drawn into an affair with Dylan. When William returns home from the war,suffering from PTSD, Vera must decide whom she truly loves and where her loyalties lie.
My Thoughts: I’m always a fan of films that depict the love lives of great writers (like Dylan Thomas). I think being a literary geek it’s like my version of US Weekly! Of course there’s no way of really knowing how accurate something like this is. But interestingly, though all of the characters make some morally questionable choices, especially regarding their love lives, it’s Dylan Thomas who comes off the worst IMO. He is the one who is willing to destroy other people to get what he wants. Or thinks he wants. His wife Caitlin, Vera, and William all make mistakes for love. But I don’t get the sense that they’re as selfishly motivated.
Movie: The Woodlanders (1997)
Starring: Rufus Sewell, Emily Woof, Jodhi May, Cal Macaninich, Tony Haygarth
Synopsis: Giles Winderborne is a woodsman living in 19th century, rural England in a town called Little Hintock. He hopes to marry his childhood sweetheart, Grace Melbury. They’ve been sort of unofficially engaged for years, but unknown to Giles, he is also loved by a peasant girl named Marty South. Grace’s father is a timber merchant who makes tremendous financial sacrifices to ensure Grace has a good education. Once that is accomplished Mr. Melbury thinks that Giles is beneath Grace and that she can do better. When the town’s new doctor, Edred Fitzpiers begins to show some interest in Grace, Mr. Melbury thinks it’s a perfect match. Grace is flattered by the doctor’s interest and a bit in awe of him, though not really in love with him. However she’s eventually convinced to marry him, leaving Giles broken hearted. Not long after their marriage, Dr. Fitzpiers starts to show his true colors. He treats Grace badly and starts an affair with a local widow. Finally he deserts her. Grace’s father, Mr. Melbury feels terrible about encouraging Grace to marry this guy, so he tries to help her get a divorce on the grounds of adultery and desertion. That way, Grace will be free to marry Giles. However divorces weren’t easy to come by in 19th century England and their efforts are in vain. After he has a falling out with his mistress, Dr. Fitzpiers tries to go back to Grace only to see her run off, taking refuge with Giles, even though it may destroy them both.
My Thoughts: This is based on a novel by Thomas Hardy. Since I haven’t read the book I can’t comment on the adaptation, so I’ll just discuss the film on its own merits. This is really a movie about a lot of people at cross purposes. There are no real villains. Some characters aren’t likable (Dr.Fitzpiers) but they’re not really “evil”. Mr. Melbury thinks that he’s doing the best thing for his daughter by encouraging her to marry Dr. Fitzpiers. When he sees he was wrong he tries (unsuccessfully) to fix the situation. Grace’s biggest fault is allowing herself to be flattered. And who among us doesn’t have that fault? The two most noble characters are Giles and Marty, who love someone from afar, even when they have no hopes of being loved in return. There is no way for all of these people to be happy. Someone (or perhaps more than one) will be left out in the cold. Once Grace decides to marry Dr. Fitzpiers it sets them all on a course toward tragedy. Or perhaps it was Mr. Melbury’s decision to educate her that led him to think that she was “above” Giles…. Regardless these characters fates are set early on, and there is little that will change them- both the nature of the characters and the nature of the situation won’t allow for a happy ending. Naturally this is one you should watch when you need a good cry- not a feel good movie!
Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=puhM2X_ZkO0 This isn’t an official trailer. It’s fan made. But it’s the closest thing that I could find!
Asked by Anonymous
I actually did a post on Like Crazy a while back. Here it is. I absolutely agree that it’s a beautiful movie and if people haven’t seen it yet it comes highly recommended! Thanks so much for the suggestion. It reminds people to check our archives because there’s a lot of good stuff in there!
Movie: Tamara Drewe (2010)
Starring: Gemma Aterton, Dominic Cooper, Luke Evans, Tamsin Greig, Roger Allam
Synopsis: Ewedown is a small village in rural England. Tamara Drewe left Ewedown years ago as an awkward young girl. After her mother’s death she returns to get her affairs in order an try to sell her house. Tamara is now a confident journalist and a nose job has made her quite attractive. Andy, a local, had been interested in her back when she was a gawky kid with a big nose. Now he’s totally smitten. Across the valley is a writer’s retreat, where authors come to work on their stories in the peace of the countryside. It’s run by Nicholas, a crime novelist (and serial womanizer) and his wife Beth. Once Nicholas sets eyes on Tamara he’s interested as well. She’s also caught the eye of Ben, a drummer in a rock band. The love lives of the Ewedon inhabitants quickly become mixed up and messy, but true love might just prevail in a very unexpected way.
My Thoughts: This is based on a comic strip of the same name that was later published as a graphic novel by Posy Simmonds. Although I never read that, it was a modern reworking of Thomas Hardy’s 19th century novel, Far From the Madding Crowd, which I have read. The story follows the novel in broad strokes however the mood is very different (the novel wasn’t a comedy for one thing). I did appreciate little shout outs to the original source though: for example at the writer’s retreat one character is Thomas Hardy scholar and the adveritsement for the writer’s retreat says “Far From the Madding Crowd”.
I was surprised by the characters that I ended up finding the most sympathetic here. Thought there are times when I sympathized with all to a certain extent. Overall this is a fun movie, with it definitely has it’s serious side. Don’t be surprised it if makes you laugh and then cry a bit and then laugh again.
Movie: Blind Dating (2006)
Starring: Chris Pine, Anjali Jay, Eddie Kay Thomas, Jane Seymour
Synopsis: Danny has been blind ever since his (premature) birth. For the most part he’s learned to live with it. His blindness is a part of who he is but it doesn’t define him. Unfortunately when it comes to dating that doesn’t seem to be the case: either girls are overly sympathetic, or assume he’s incapable of doing anything for himself, or are just all around self conscious. He wants to be able to date someone and know that she’s with him because she wants to be; not because she feels bad for him. While his well-intentioned older brother sets him up on a million terrible dates, Danny decides to undergo an experimental surgery that might partially restore his sight. At the clinic where the doctor works, he meets a receptionist named Leeza, an Indian girl who dreams of going to medical school and joining this doctor’s team. Her family is in the process of arranging her marriage. But she and Danny end up hitting it off. While Danny is falling in love with her, Leeza is caught between love, tradition and family obligation. When she comes clean with Danny about being engaged he misunderstands and thinks that she’s choosing the other guy because he can see. Danny is frustrated by a world that seems intent on defining him by the on thing he can’t do. But the world has a few surprises in store for him.
My Thoughts: If I’d seen the trailer for this movie before the move, I probably wouldn’t have bothered to watch it. The trailer makes it look like a combination of American Pie and 40 Year Old Virgin. But while there are elements of crude humor in the movie, that’s not the whole of it by any means. Initially it’s hard to imagine the sweet, intelligent, handsome Danny having any trouble finding a girl. But when people meet him they don’t see a law student who is close to his family, likes playing basketball with his best friend and listening to old movies. All that other people initially see is that fact that Danny can’t see. Leeza (perhaps because she works in a clinic that deals with blind people) actually gets to know Danny as a person and learns that there’s a lot more to him than that. She doesn’t care if the operation works or not- as long as Danny comes through safely. But she’s got her own complications. Her family is loving but they assume that she’s OK with an arranged marriage without really asking how she feels about it. And she is afraid that if she doesn’t go through with it they’ll think she’s not devoted to them and doesn’t value the culture that she comes from. This film is at it’s best when it’s not trying to make you laugh. I think that comes off as forced. There are some naturally funny moments, but it’s also got some poignant moments and these are when it shines: when it explores what it’s like for a person with a disability to meet new people, and when it looks at a cross cultural romance in that context. Naturally misunderstandings can and do arise.
Again this trailer is a TERRIBLE indication of what the film actually is. It depicts most of the films weaknesses rather than its strengths.
Asked by lovefarts-and-brokenhearts
No I don’t think I have seen it. I’ll definitively try to see it soon though. Thanks for the rec!
Movie: The Last Station (2009)
Starring: Christopher Plummer, James McAvoy, Helen Mirren, Paul Giamatti, Kerry Condon, Anne Marie Duff
Synopsis: In 1910, at his country estate, famed Russian writer Leo Tolstoy (he wrote War and Peace and Anna Karenina among others) is nearing the end of his life. He has had a long and happy marriage to his wife, Sofya. But later in life, his idealistic and spiritual beliefs (he was against owning private property for example, he believed in nonviolent resistance, and looking for inward spiritual fulfillment and love rather than to a church) have caused some tension with Sofya’s more traditional aristocratic and religious views. By this point Tolstoy had become sort of a Christian anarchist in the public eye and his followers- the "Tolstoians" had formed a movement that was at odds with the Russian orthodox church.
As his life draws to an end, many Tolstoians, led by Vladimir Chertkov want him to sign a new will that will give them control over Tolstory’s work following his death. This new will would place the copyright for all of Tolstory’s work in the public domain. Sofya fears that without the royalties from her husband’s books she and their many children will be left without the financial support they need when Tolstoy dies. Furthermore she believes that she has a right to some of that income since she served for years as his proof- reader, copying his manuscripts, and handling the financial side of his career.
All of this is seen through the eyes of Tolstoy’s new secretary: a young Tolstoian named Valentin Bugalkov. He enters the Tolstoy household believing that Tolstoy, and the movement that his beliefs inadvertently founded, are one and the same. However, the lovely young Masha, a Tolstoian who works at a nearby commune makes him question that assumption. As does Tolstoy himself. Vladimir Chertkov wants Valentin to be a sort of spy in the Tolstoy household in order to ensure that Tolstoy signs the new will. Chertkov is more than willing to come between and even try to separate the dying Tolstoy from his wife and the mother of his children, in order to see that happen. However as Valentin gets to know Tolstoy and Sofya, and see how much in love they are, he begins to question the purity of Chertkov’s motives. He is also falling in love with Masha, and that informs his perception of their relationship as well.
My Thoughts: This is based on a novel that was loosely based on the real facts that surrounded Leo Tolstoy’s death. To be honest I don’t know much of the facts but you can learn more about it here, here, here, here and here. Most of the characters in this film are based on real people.
As a hopeless romantic this provides me with two loves stories: one is the obvious one between Leo Tolstoy and his wife. This couple has been married for nearly 50 years. They’ve lived together and worked together. They’ve had 13 children (8 of whom survived childhood) and have celebrated and grieved together. There is no doubt that these are two people who love each other a great deal. But in a way their love story is ending. Leo Tolstoy is dying. His followers have created a distance between the radical Tolstoy and more conservative Sofya. We see that they can put their different opinions aside and still enjoy one another’s company when allowed to. But there are a lot of people whose interests don’t allow them to.
The other love story is between Valentin and Masha. This is a love story that is just beginning. Both embrace the essence of Tolstoy’s beliefs, but both have doubts about the movement itself. Valentin’s doubts emerge slowly, partly due to Masha’s questioning influence and partially due to the political and personal struggle he sees the movement making in what should be Tolstoy’s peaceful final days with his family. It’s interesting that the older couple’s romance should shape the younger couple’s to the degree that does.
In one scene Valentin comes upon Sofya listening to music. Specifically she’s listening to the aria Un Bel Di Vedremo from the opera Madama Butterfly. She explains to him that it’s sung by a girl who has lost her lover and everyone finds this very moving an heartbreaking- in the opera. Then her voice trails off. It’s clear that Sonya identifies with the character who has lost her love- she is in the process of slowly losing the man she loves, as well- to death, and to people who have interests in exploiting it. Yet no one cries for her as they do for this character in the opera. Valentin understands the unspoken words as well, and they cause him to make decisions that he might not have imagined otherwise.
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