Last night our film discussion group had a great discussion about The Story of Us, starring Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer. It's the story of what happens to a faltering marriage when the kids go away to camp for the Summer. The narrative of the present is constantly interspersed with flashbacks from the relationship. Many of them feature clashes over what the viewer might perceive to be small matters.
Holly pointed out that there was no insurmountable problem that came between them. Because of this, anyone who's been in an extended relationship can probably relate to the way that little problems can add up in a relationship.
One of the main themes of the movie was the desire both husband and wife had to protect their children. It was interesting to see how they tried to hide what was going on, but in the end, were not quite capable of it. Our group talked about one of the common themes behind what I termed an "American Divorce." That is, the kids are to be "protected" at all costs. That is, parents who split up in the U.S. seem to have the notion that they can make their divorce work in such a way that the kids won't get too hurt in the process. The assumption is that the break up of the parents in a family unit can have some kind of limited impact on the other members.
WARNING: Spoiler coming. If you haven't seen the movie yet, don't click on the link below.
In the end, we are treated to an accelerated montage of events from the long story of the couple. Many of these are a repetition of events we've already been told about. I likened this to a near death experience, where people say their life flashed before their eyes. Essentially, a life is about to die. Both husband and wife have given up on their story, as it were.
It is the end of the Summer, and the couple drives to camp, discussing how they should break the news of their impending divorce to the kids. But something happens when they come in contact with their children. There is a crisis moment where the mother realizes she can't go through with it. She gives a rambling litany of reasons why she doesn't want to start a new story.
It might be easy to become depressed by this film. One thing I thought about after everyone was gone last night was that the movie didn't (and, of course, couldn't) show us all of the "normal" days that this couple would have had over the course of 15 years. In using the word "normal," I don't mean to imply "mundane." Rather, every couple has at least the potential to have many normal days when everything doesn't necessarily go right, but the couple has the benefit of moving life together nonetheless. This is the beauty of the film. It highlights the power of having a story. Our stories would have no meaning without other characters populating them. What holds relationships together? It is not just the present situation, but the story created by that relationship.
If this post wasn't already incredibly long, I would be very tempted to say something about the story of those who follow Christ. Maybe I can save that comparison for another day!