Not for a while, has one film touched me in many of my vulnerable places. Like a cool blade thrust into my warm and sensitive heart, I was struck by the film, the actors, but mostly by the plight of the characters. I watched intently as relationships were revealed and pain, so much pain emoted from the screen and I felt the pain, not all of it, but so much of it. And there was this little boy, this beautiful little boy who ached me the most. His mother, to him, was the world. And he to his mother was nothing more than a burden, a representation of her ‘death-like’ life. She was a product of the 50’s housewife syndrome, a mannequin throughout, no real blood, no real sense of life, passion stripped naked only to reveal the emptiness and worthlessness of her life. A life based on an ideal, an ideal created by whom and for what purpose – to deny? To escape? Her sheer existence amounted to a lifeless smile that covered a pain so grand it would burn through the skin at the mere sight of it. She had it all, seemingly from the outside, that textbook life of house, car, garden, a hard working husband. And an empty day that flowed into another empty day and on and on and on. And the highlight of her day would be to make a cake for her husband’s birthday, a cake that her son would help her with, a cake that would turn out deflated, much like her life.
And the bond, so clear and so innocent and so real, the love, honest, untainted love from son to mother was dejected, a child who understands so little and yet so much abandoned by his mother, abandoned emotionally and later physically. And what crushed my heart the most was that he knew his mother was in pain and at such a tender age tried to console her with, “mom, I love you…” Her sense of worthlessness triumphed and her response was shallow in meaning and yet he held onto her words like a safety raft and it warmed him, “I love you too, you’re my guy…” And I cried because she left her son feeling void of his mother’s love, a love that is due every child as they enter this world, and I cried because the lack of love would haunt him for the rest of his life and I cried because I couldn’t take my son ever thinking even for a moment that I would not be there for him, emotionally and physically, that I would ever abandon him, that I would ever leave him alone in this world….
And so, as the relationship between mother and son developed, similar haunting relationships drew focus – the relationship between husband and wife and how terrifying it must be to accept that your happiness, or relief, better yet, from life, and that of your spouse would be solely dependent on your expiration. That only when you are gone, would you ‘free’ him of the chains of love that bound him? And without you he could breathe fresh air void of your discontented soul that polluted its very substance. That a life without you would be far greater than a life with merely a vessel of you. His love a love from man to woman was genuine and full of hope and full of resolve, he loved her not for her perfections, but for her imperfections, the brutal honesty of her existence, her core. And yet it didn’t matter, for her restless heart could not be cured by his love. And so he suffered and she suffered and that became their being.
So, as these relationships ensue, the film sorts out thoughts of life and happiness and contentment and what of it? And the author confides that we all busy ourselves everyday, details, details, details and believe that happiness will come if only this or that, and we wait and plan and prepare and cajole to attain ‘happiness’ and just when we are at the brink of what seems to be the happy period of our life, we realize that in fact it’s not the start of happiness but is happiness – that very moment is happiness. And that happiness has neither a start nor an end but is a string of moments quilted together. And then it’s gone, swept away by our own discontentment, lack of purpose, or possibly by an unexpected turn of events, or possibly by the slow demise of an existence of life we no longer see promising and we are left standing. And so we busy ourselves again with details, details and details in order to avoid looking at life, at our life. And in the end, Virginia Woolf writes, you must look life straight in the face, understand it, accept it then put it away.