Those who know me, and many of you who read my blog, might find it hard to forget that I don’t like sad movies. I don’t like really violent movies. Or love triangles. Or tragic love lost. Generally, I don’t like movies that end in a way that isn’t suitable for me. And because suspense makes me tense, I find Google to be an excellent tool in easing the tension. You can call me lame or lacking in appreciation of the arts, but I reply by saying that I watch the news. And read the paper. And it’s sad and violent with love lost and hurt and pain all the time. I’m a social worker, and by trade and by nature I read people’s pain, scrutinize, mistrust, and absorb. I need my entertainment to lift me up.
So despite my aversion to certain genres, I found myself sitting on the couch last week with my mother-in-law and my sister-in-law’s boyfriend (don’t ask) watching The Constant Gardener. I know, I know, it came out in 2005, but for me that constitutes a new release. Normally, if it were just Dave and I, I would have vetoed this film on principle. But out of familial obligation stayed seated, and because I was comfortably seated I couldn’t access the internet to spoil the ending for myself. So I watched. And I loved it.
There was suspense. Love lost. Tragedy. Human suffering. And I didn’t even shed a tear. And I loved this movie. I loved the music, the scenery, the characters, the adventure, the content, the lesson. So many of the moments were sad, but there was happiness in the ending (the biggest rule of all: HAPPY ENDING). Almost every rule I have about what I will and will not watch was broken, but I wanted to rewind and start again. What’s wrong with me? Hormones? Change of heart? Delirium?
And then I realized that when I take stock of my list of favorites (ie: books, movies, etc) that there is a fair bit of sorrow involved. To Kill A Mockingbird, Everything is Illuminated, Shawshank Redemption, The Time Traveller’s Wife, Loving Glances. Within those books and movies lies injustice, love lost, death, war, abuse, racism. Even my favorite no-brainer movie, Love Actually, has it’s fair share of my much maligned love-triangles and unrequited desire. So what’s the point of all these preferences if I don’t actually prefer them?
When I reconsider my list of beloved books and films I realize that while they may, at first glance, break all my rules, they have one common thread. Through all the sadness comes a message of hope, humanity, unconditional devotion. All of these pieces have at least one moment of humor that leads you to smile, if not outright laugh. My rules still stand, generally speaking, with the caveat that in order to find the exceptions to the rule, the rules will have to be broken. I’ll have to watch movies that are potentially sad without the redeeming qualities that make them acceptable. I’ll have to peep through interlocking fingers and keep Wikipedia on hand to handle the suspense. But if I find, even once a year, an exceptional exception to add to my list, all the palm sweat will be worth it.