Truly Madly Deeply

Juliet Stevenson, sort of a British Laura Linney, is a woman whose cellist husband has died suddenly. Alan Rickman is the dead husband. It’s strange enough to see him playing a romantic lead; that he does so in a Village-People-style moustache is the mark of a truly daring actor.

Juliet misses Alan quite a bit, and so he obliges her by coming back and moving in with her. And things are nice, briefly, before he starts reminding her that he’s actually kind of a dick. He brings loads of dead guys around to watch videos all night, rearranges the furniture and continually picks at her manners and decorating choices.

Not a zombie movie per se, closer to a ghost story or a psychological drama, it’s about how we idealize the dead, how we remember them not as they were but as we like to think of them.

Another way to look at the story is that it’s as if Juliet and Alan are living their relationship in reverse. They start out intensely in love with each other but as time goes on they increasingly get on each others’ nerves as their personalities begin to clash. Juliet gets entangled in the lives of others and Alan starts to be more comfortable hanging out with the guys.

Mostly this is all well-observed and well-played. There are a few examples of twee British rom-com cuteness.

I have been told that it is one of the all-time great tear-jerkers. My tears remained unjerked, but then I was watching it primarily for its view on the walking dead. Your results may vary.

Director Anthony Minghella, Alan Rickman and Juliet Stevenson (with Kristen Scott-Thomas) would later examine a somewhat darker aspect of the love-after-death theme with their stunning, electrifying movie adaptation of Samuel Beckett’s Play, which is available as part of the invaluable Beckett on Film set.
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14 Responses to “Truly Madly Deeply”
  1. mcbrennan says:

    This is one of my all-time favorite movies. Honestly I make no claim to knowing a thing about the cinematography or the structure, the craft or the art of it. I never have a chance to even consider those things when I watch it, because I’m so drawn in emotionally. I really feel with Juliet Stevenson and Alan Rickman, in two of my favorite performances. The loss, the- the desperate longing to somehow make immutable things different. In less competent, more hackneyed hands, with bad actors and a worse director (*cough* Ghost *cough*) it could’ve been horrible. For me it was sublime, definitely THE all-time tear-jerker. Be advised I have been on a steady daily regimen of estrogen for approximately 20 years, and I also cried when Bo and Luke Duke seemed to have drowned in a 1979 episode of “The Dukes Of Hazzard”.

    I’ve been working on a walking dead script myself. I’ve got a story down, I’ve got a plot, but somehow it seems to lack braaaaaaains.

    • Todd says:

      No apologies for estrogen levels necessary; I’m the kind of guy who gets choked up during AT&T commercials and sobs like a little girl at the end of Raising Arizona.

      It’s funny; many people have compared Truly to Ghost and I don’t see it. I suppose if there was a subplot in Truly about Alan Rickman using a wacky medium to catch the man who murdered him I could see it, but otherwise…

      My walking dead script is nowhere near a script at this point and currently has nothing but brains; what it lacks is bones and muscle. Maybe our scripts should meet.

      • mcbrennan says:

        I lived in Arizona when Raising Arizona was filmed. Many people do not realize it is a documentary. One of my favorites.

        To be honest, I have never given Ghost a proper viewing. Piecemeal on TBS, any movie would look like crap. I am a terrible, unfair hack. It’s the “wacky medium” subplot that has kept me from taking it seriously. And Swayze. But Vincent Schiavelli is always a big plus.

        Like all of my scripts (or scripts in progress), my zombie story was intended to be a broad, mass-appeal comic book adventure and has turned into a heartbroken treatise on the nature of life and death, good and evil. With lots of action and delicious brain-eating, of course. If you’d really like to chat about my take on it, shoot me an email and I’ll tell you more.

      • Okay, there are certain scenes that always make me sob, no matter how many times I see them. Most of them, I tell people about, they understand.

        But no one EVER gets why I cry copiously at the end of Raising Arizona, and they just look at me funny when I tell them I do. Glad to know there’s ONE other person out there who has the same reaction.

        • gazblow says:

          You’re not alone. I cry at the end of Raising Arizona too. Something about all the food and family laid out on the table.

        • Todd says:

          Well, Hi wanted that baby, and Ed wanted that baby too. But they’re born losers and they’ll never have a baby. And Nathan Jr. has a tremendous impact on them.

          In fact, Nathan Jr. has a tremendous impact on everyone who sees him. Everyone in the movie who comes in contact with Nathan Jr. instantly has an overwhelming desire to possess him. He changes the lives of everyone he touches in the movie. He makes crooked men go straight and brings the arrogant low. He’s a force of divine will and everyone who sees him recognizes that.

          In the dream, not only do Hi and Ed have many babies, but they also have an influence, no matter how small, on Nathan Jr.’s life (in the form of a desire to play football). So in the context of the movie’s metaphorical logic, it’s as though God has spoken to Hi and Ed, and Hi and Ed have spoken back and changed the course of the nature of divine will. The two born losers who can never have a child are granted not only many children but also leave a small mark on the face of God, and what greater wish could a pair of born losers have?

  2. popebuck1 says:

    Count me as yet another who cries at the end of Raising Arizona. For me, the sublime thing about it is that, after all the chaos and wretched extremes of human behavior that have filled the movie up to this point, it’s a crystal-clear vision of a perfect ideal, of love and family. The very idea that Hi (in all of his smallness and imperfection, and after everything that’s happened to dash his dreams) can still have this dream of perfect optimism and purity – well, it’s the whole human condition, right there. Hell, I’m misting up right now just thinking about it.

    And if you really want to appreciate Truly, Madly, Deeply, watch it back-to-back with Kiss Me Goodbye, the Neil Simon remake of the Brazilian film Dona Flor And Her Two Husbands. Sally Field just can’t get over her idealized memories of deceased husband James Caan, even though she’s about to get married to nice-guy dentist and Ralph Bellamy stand-in Jeff Daniels. Then Caan magically materializes, and (this being Neil Simon) you can pretty much write the rest from there.

    To me, Truly, Madly, Deeply is all about Juliet Stephenson’s grief – a grief so terrible it’s like a physical wound that just won’t heal. That’s where its power comes from – from a reality she just can’t accept, and a love that was so intense, she just can’t let go of it.

  3. eronanke says:

    I netflixed this a few months ago, out of love for Alan Rickman. It was substantially good, but, (you know me!), I felt the pace was a little slow.

    I did, however, love the end- sooo much better than Ghost.

  4. craigjclark says:

    I got to see that version of Play thanks to PBS. I thought the editing style was distracting and wondered whether Beckett intended for his words to be spoken in such a rapid-fire fashion.

    I much preferred Mamet’s Catastrophe.

    • Todd says:

      The dialogue in Play is spoken exactly as Beckett intended. His instructions are “Faces impassive throughout. Voices toneless except where an expression is indicated [ie ‘wild laugh’]. Rapid tempo throughout.”

      The editing style is an approximation of the “fourth character” in Play, a beam of light that swiftly moves from character to character and compels them to speak. “Their speech is provoked by a spotlight projected on their faces alone…the transfer of light from one face to another is immediate.” Instead of dramatising a black void with a searching beam of light (which the script asks for), Minghella devised a wasteland full of urns, three of which we settle down to talk to. As this drama is on film instead of the stage, he made the fourth character the camera itself (that’s why they have some of the camera tricks they have, the going in-and-out of focus, the sound of the focus being adjusted — to call attention to the fact that the camera is actually a character in the film). In the play, it’s the light that swivels so fast from face to face. Minghella does the same thing with editing. Otherwise I think it is as precise an adaptation of the play as could be imagined.

  5. urbaniak says:

    I remember being very moved by that film when it came out.

    And the ending of “Raising Arizona,” forget about it. I challenge you to a cry-off, , which I will win by misting up merely by the time Gale and Evelle return to their hole!

    • Todd says:

      It’s funny, the movie didn’t have that effect on me when I saw it in the theater; it was one afternoon when they showed it on Comedy Central, of all things, that I suddenly found myself absolutely racked with sobs, completely incapacitated for hours. The next day rented it and watched it with my wife-to-be and the same thing happened again. Bizarre.

  6. Anonymous says:

    TMD ending

    Coming to this a few years late… but, I thought the ending, wasn’t about how they fall out of love (although there is an element of how we deify the dead) but how Rickman’s sole reason for coming back was to help Stevenson move on and live her life again. There was a brief scene where she’s left the house and he stares after her, he’s very sad and fully aware of what’s happening, while the other ghosts comfort him. He’s done what he needed to and it’s time for him to go. And I’m tearing up as I write this.