I'm on a countdown now, getting ready to go on my Alaskan cruise but trying to keep abreast of my screenwriting course. Yesterday was an interesting assignment, and very time-consuming so I have decided to submit it as a blog, with my rather chatty preamble included. I'll edit a little but not much. Think of the time I'm saving! Here it is:
Bettyjane’s Great Ending
What I learned during this assignment was a confirmation of the kind of movie I like/love. I looked up online for a list of 100 great movies. I think this particular list was compiled by actors and critics. It was impressive for two reasons: one, the surprising number of foreign films chosen. Nice to see. I knew some of the British ones but otherwise not; two, the enormous number of violent films. Not for me. However, there were a lot of movies that I like and own, so my problem remained to choose one.
Another problem: it’s impossible for me to watch a baseball game and a movie at the same time. Fortunately, it’s an afternoon game, so I’ll have time to watch my movie tonight and submit my assignment, a bit late.
I have chosen Truly, Madly, Deeply, written and directed by Anthony Minghella in 1990, six years before his awesome direction (and improvements) of The English Patient. It was Minghella’s first direction, I think; anyway, he was invited to Hollywood after this one. But it wasn’t Minghella that drew me to it. It’s a ghost story, a ghost story for grown-ups, nothing spooky or jack-in-the-box scary. It’s about a woman grieving the loss of her lover so deeply that he returns from the after-life to comfort her. My husband died suddenly a the age of 45 and for years I kept watching ghost movies. Like the kid in The Sixth Sense, I saw dead people.I wanted to.
So you know my bias about this movie. When he game is over, I’ll watch it again.
It just ended, and the Blue Jays finally won 3-1 over the Orioles. So now the movie…I have underlined the set-ups that are paid off in the third act.
TRULY MADLY DEEPLY
The basic story up to the third act is of a young woman, Nina, in deep mourning for the death of her lover, Jamie. She’s a mess: she is going to a shrink and spends most of the time there crying; she is having trouble with her living arrangements. Her apartment needs fixing, there are rats in the place, and she forgets to lock the back door. Her lover used to remind her and now he reminds her in Spanish, she says. He couldn’t speak Spanish. She does, fluently; she is an interpreter. People love her and make allowances for her: her boss, a co-worker, and the contractor. She is helping a young, pregnant Chilean woman with her English. She refuses to lend or sell her lover’s cello to her sister for her nephew to use for his music lessons.
The cello sounds the transition to her lover’s appearance. She is very happy to have him back, so loving, and he has been learning Spanish, but he is cold all the time and jacks the heat up. The rats disappear but several of his friends show , also dead, who play other chamber instruments and who are addicted to movies. They’re cold too, and prefer to watch the movies in her bedroom where it’s warmer and they ask her to find more movies for them.
She meets a man who performs a magic act in a tearoom where her Chilean friend is being checked out by a doctor, another immigrant who works at the tearoom. The owner is angry and shouting and the strange young man, Mark, performs his magic (throwing a book that turns into a dove???), deflects the attention of the owner so the women can get away.
Her living arrangements are still strange in a different way. She cannot get comfortable time or silence to herself what with the chamber music and the movies and it’s too hot.
When the phone rings in her bedroom she has to stumble over her ghostly guests to answer. It’s Mara, her Chilean friend, in childbirth. Nina goes to help and is thrilled to hold the infant when it’s over. “A new life!” she says.
Jamie and Nina begin to argue. “Were we like this?” she wonders.
And then Jamie rips up an old carpet exclaiming over the value of the floor underneath, that needs finishing. She finally complains and he asks her if she wants him to leave. Never! She says, but she’s close to giving u
She goes out and the group assembles and one of them says, “Well?” And Jamie replies, “I think so.”
Nina sees Mark again though she has refused to give him her number or tell him where she lives. On an earlier meeting he gives her roses, which she discards, outside her home. He finally confronts her, as she hesitates to get into his car. She explains that she is “free” but still mourning the loss of her lover. He suggests she come home with him and just talk. On the way she asks him to stop the car. She races into a Pharmacy. He thinks she’s gone but she comes back and shows him what she had to get. A toothbrush!
The roses are in a vase in her apartment. (Jamie?) Oh, and the rat is back. (There’s a superstition that rats do not appear where there are ghosts in the house.)
Next night she’s going out again to see Mark, turns out the lights and leaves. The shades gather and they watch out the window. Mark greets her at the gate with a kiss and they head out. The group at the window, with Jamie at the front, watch her leave.
It’s hard to be brief about this. I noticed the details that set up the ending. They were funny, surprising and inevitable.
P.S. It still gets to me.