The Love Goes On Blogathon: Truly, Madly, Deeply(1990)

Steve at MovieMovieBlogBlogII is hosting this blogathon about contiuing to love someone after they die. Be sure to visit his site to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself.

Love goes on blogathon bannerSteve has been inspired to host this blogathon after the death of his wife. Once again I pass on my condolences and love to Steve and his family as they try and come to terms with their loss. 

Grief is a strange thing. It is something which affects us all in so many different ways. Some cry a lot after they suffer a bereavement. Others retreat from life around them and become numb, unable to carry on after the death of someone so close to them. Others appear to be carrying on as normal, but inside they are bottling up their grief and despair, which at some point will all burst out in a great torrent of anguish. 

After we lose someone we love we want them back with us, and we would do anything to make that possible. We want to talk and laugh with our loved ones again. Watch favourite TV series and films together.We want to hold them and be held by them in return. We want to confide our worries and fears to them. We want to hear their stories and views on current situations.  We are reminded of the deceased wherever we turn in our homes and memories, and therefore they are always there with us in some way like ghosts, all be it ghosts of the human memory, rather than as physical manifestations. 

Some part of us knows that our loved one wouldn’t want us to be weighed down by grief and be in great distress, but unfortunately we cannot help our totally normal response to loss, and it is not possible for a long time to move past our loss and try to rebuild our lives.

All of the above is depicted in Anthony Minghella’s debut feature film Truly, Madly, Deeply. Minghella not only directed the film, but he also wrote the screenplay too. The film title comes from a game played by the main couple in the film, in which the pair repeat and add words to describe how much they are in love with one another.

Minghella wrote the film specifically for actress Juliet Stevenson in order to showcase her acting abilities. I’m glad he did, because I can imagine no one other than Juliet in this film. Nobody does crying scenes quite the way Juliet does, and boy does she convince you that she is deeply grieving in this film. 

Truly Madly Deeply

Alan Rickman and Juliet Stevenson as the couple separated by death. Image source IMDb.

Truly,Madly,Deeply has often been compared to the American film Ghost, which has a somewhat similar storyline. Many viewers feel this British film offers a far more grown up and affecting look at grief. While I do like both films very much, I would agree that Truly,Madly, Deeply provides the better experience of grief and of trying to reconnect with life after bereavement.

The film was made for the BBC’s Screen Two anthology series and came about after TV writer and theatre director Anthony Minghella was offered the chance to direct a BBC film. The film bypassed being shown on TV and received a cinema release instead. At the time of receiving the film offer, Minghella was also considering an offer to direct an episode of the hit TV series Inspector Morse, for which he would write several episodes, including the pilot. The series was one of the biggest things in the UK at the time and it would have been a huge career boost for him, but he chose to make the film after being worried that if he had accepted the TV job and got the Morse episode wrong,then he would never hear the end of it. 

Truly,Madly,Deeply tells the story of Nina(Juliet Stevenson), an interpreter who is trying to cope with the sudden death of her musician boyfriend,Jamie(Alan Rickman). Nina is seeing a therapist who provides her with a cosy office in which she can vent her grief and rage.

Nina is managing to go out to work,where she is teaching the pregnant Maura(Stella Maris)to learn how to speak English. However Nina is pushing people away who try and get to close and express concern about how she is doing- such as her kind boss, Sandy(the great Bill Paterson)and lovestruck plumber, Titus(Christopher Rozycki)- and on top of that she just can’t let the memory of Jamie go.

Nina feels like Jamie is with her and this gives her some small amount of comfort. One day, Jamie’s ghost actually appears to her, and in a very emotional scene the tearful couple are reunited. They quickly pick up where they left off before his death – discussing things, having fun together, sharing a bed, cuddles and kisses, the occasional row. Nina really perks up and all seems right again in the world.

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Jamie and some ghostly pals. Image source IMDb.

What Nina doesn’t know is that Jamie has come back not only to comfort her, but also to annoy her so she will want him to leave. He knows she has to get on with her life. So to get his plan underway, he subtly starts to do things that get on her nerves. Jamie also gets some fellow ghost pals to move into Nina’s, where they all sit watching and discussing classic films(an absolutely hilarious scene).

Things are complicated because neither Jamie or Nina wants to leave the other again, and they are further complicated when Nina meets the fun-loving, Mark(Michael Maloney), who falls in love with her. Nina likes Mark very much, but can she let go of Jamie and take the big step of moving on with her life?

What I love most about this film is how it turns our traditional expectations and understanding of ghosts and their depictions on screen right on their head. Jamie can be seen, heard and felt, as opposed to being seen but not touched or properly communicated with. Jamie also feels the temperature and can even catch a cold. In this film ghosts play music, complain about politics, and hang out together watching  classic films late into the night(love the bit where they watch Brief Encounter). It really is quite unlike anything else and that’s why I love it so. 

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Will she choose life or death? Nina, Jamie and Mark. Image source IMDb.

I especially love the key role music plays in this film – from the classical music Jamie plays on his cello, to Nina and Jamie’s hilarious and joyous rendition of The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore. Often it is a song or piece of music that can most quickly trigger memories of moments spent with our lost loved ones. Hearing those special tunes can either bring forth smiles, or bring forth floods of tears, and so it goes in Truly, Madly, Deeply

The entire cast are superb with special praise going to Juliet and Alan. This is one of Alan’s most subtle performances, it’s all there in the face and the little expressions.I love all the scenes between him and Juliet and think they make a great pair. When you watch the film now, it takes on an extra level of poignancy due to the role Alan plays, and the fact that both he and Anthony Minghella have since sadly died.

While Alan is terrific as Jamie, the film undoubtedly belongs to Juliet. You can’t take your eyes off her. She breaks your heart one minute, and is being passionate and hilarious the next.She’s so good in the part that you want to reach through the screen and give her a hug. 

Truly,Madly,Deeply was the little film that became a surprise hit,both here in the UK, and over in America. It was a critical success and was nominated for several awards, and would win a BAFTA for Best Original Screenplay. The film catapulted Anthony Minghella to international fame and he would go on to direct The English Patient and The Talented Mr. Ripley, which were two of the biggest films of the 90’s. 

This film is one of the best films about love and the agony and unpredictability of grief that I’ve ever seen. It’s so much more than a story about love and grief though. It’s not all tears and depression, there is a lot of humour and so many touching and romantic moments to enjoy. There’s also a great scene in a cafe which contains a dig directed towards those in our society who are rude and unpleasant to immigrants, with this vile attitude and treatment being countered with the warm and welcoming attitudes of Nina and her colleagues, as they happily support these new additions to Britain. 

Truly, Madly,Deeply reminds us of the joys of sharing our lives with someone, but also of the unbearable pain we feel when we lose them. The film proves that it is possible for us to slowly emerge from the fog of grief and tentatively rejoin the world going on around us. We will always love the one we’ve lost, but it is possible to rebuild our own lives and have fun again, without ever having to give up the memory of our loved one and our happy times together. 

A trip to Nina and Jamie’s is highly recommended. 

 

16 thoughts on “The Love Goes On Blogathon: Truly, Madly, Deeply(1990)

  1. tensecondsfromnow

    Great review, and one of the most profound and moving films about grief; sad to imagine that Alan and Anthony are no longer with us. I chaired a Q and A with the director, and he talked about this as a very special movie in terms of the right cast, subject and time. Thanks.

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      1. tensecondsfromnow

        I did an on-stage interview with Anthony Minghella in Edinburgh, Scotland in 2006 for Breaking and Entering. He had recently fallen off a stage and was a little fragile; he spoke very warmly about this film, and Mr Wonderful, two films which really cemented his career and which he was keen for people to remember him by. Thanks for writing about this film, it’s great to hear about it through your eyes. He made the right choice.

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  2. Patricia Nolan-Hall (@CaftanWoman)

    Maddy, I will cherish reading your thoughts on grief and on this special film.

    Perhaps it comes from watching too many movies but after a lifechanging loss, I foolishly expect that the world will realize a mistake has been made and one day everything will be reset. It is strange, the things that carry us from one phase to the next.

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  3. Silver Screenings

    I absolutely love this film, although I haven’t seen it in too many years. Alan Rickman is fabulous, and Juliet Stevenson is absolutely perfect here. I love her in everything, but this is my fave role for her.

    Liked by 1 person

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  4. J-Dub

    I know he’s done a ton of great stuff, and I know this is a “me” problem, But Alan Rickman is stuck in my head as “Hans Gruber” from “Die Hard.”

    Liked by 1 person

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  5. Jay@cinemaessentials.com

    This is a surprisingly moving and heartfelt piece, Maddy. It’s clear the film means a great deal to you. It’s something I would really like to see again. I haven’t seen it since I was 16 and I’m much less cynical now. Believe it or not.

    Liked by 1 person

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