John Grindrod: The truest demonstration of love

As a great lover of movies, especially as I’ve moved further away in my TV viewing habits from series and reality, I’ll often find myself planted in my man cave checking out my streaming options for a film.

I think a lot of us fashion ourselves to be pretty decent film critics. While surely not as famous as some whom I’ve seen on TV — like Richard Roeper and Roger Ebert — who’ve given their opinions through the years as to what’s watchfully worthy and what’s not, I know what I like.

Recently, I selected one solely on the basis of what I thought was a catchy title, The Deep Blue Sea, a title that prompted me to think of that figurative expression for those facing a dilemma, as in to be “caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.”

About a half-hour into the 2011 film, it became clear the title did indeed foreshadow a storyline that was indeed quite the dilemmain nature. The British film, based on a Terence Rattigan play of the same name, centered on the dilemma facing protagonist Hester Collyer. She is played so very well by Rachel Weisz, who is the much younger wife of a High Court judge, Sir William Collyer. As the movie opens, Hester is embroiled in a passionate affair with former RAF pilot Freddie Page. The ex-aviator is troubled both by memories of his service in World War II and his difficulty finding his place in civilian life, as has often been such a challenge for those returning from war.

Hester’s life unravels as she is torn between the loyalty she knows her husband has always shown her and the passion she feels for the unstable Page. Much of the story is told in a series of flashbacks on the day she is recovering from a suicide attempt. After leaving her husband and moving in with Page, Hester realizes her dilemma. Whatever the irresponsible former pilot can give her, which is passionate at times, really isn’t sustainable. She realizes he will never be capable of providing her the stability that the husband she left behind had provided. And, that is, of course, her devil and the deep blue sea.

As for what she does with that dilemma, well, far be it from me to be a spoiler, even for a movie now a dozen years old. Both the film and Weisz were nominated for several awards with the actress winning both the 2012 New York Film Critics Circle Award and the Toronto Film Critics Association Award, as well for best actress.

Giving my two cents as an uncertified film critic, well, I did think the movie was well done, especially in regard to the filmmakers’ ability to tell the story of the three main characters — the protagonist, the loyal husband and the troubled and irresponsible former RAF pilot — in a way that didn’t in gratuitous fashion show the physical aspects of Hester’s infidelities.

There was one scene in particular that really resonated for me and actually reminded me of my times bartending at the Knights of Columbus.

The movie scene happened toward the end of the film when Hester is still searching for some tranquility in her contentious relationship with Freddie. There’s an exchange Hester has with her landlady, Mrs. Elton. Rachel’s flat is on the upper floor of the Elton residence, so any disturbance from above is heard below. Recalling the recent drama between Hester and Freddie, Mrs. Elton tells Rachel that her husband is gravely sick and she doesn’t need any repeats of the arguing and yelling from the previous days.

It’s here where the true significance of the movie title becomes clear when Hester mildly chastises her landlady by saying, “Sometimes it’s difficult to judge when you’re caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.”

That arouses the ire of Mrs. Elton, who’s had just about enough of the bouts of arguing and yelling from the flat while she’s tending to her gravely ill husband. And, in the movie’s most impacting dialogue, she says to Hester, “A lot of rubbish is talked about love. You know what real love is? It’s wiping someone’s arse or changing the sheets when they’ve wet themselves. And letting them keep their dignity so you can both go on.”

I immediately thought of my Friday night bar shifts from several years ago when I saw a devoted husband pushing a wheelchair in the door with his wife of over fifty years, who was in a state of severe dementia. He came each Friday to join some other couples with whom they’d shared years of camaraderie in far better times. When I occasionally glanced at the table, the wife, with head resting on her chest, was incapable of even raising her head to acknowledge any of the conversation.

It often occurred to me on those Friday nights that what I saw was the true embodiment of love, the most profound manifestation of that pledge spoken of a long ago wedding day that includes the words “in sickness and in health.”

For my money, the most impacting movies are the ones that imitate life, and I thought about that as the credits rolled by on one of my most recent movie nights in the man cave.

John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at [email protected].