Warning: The blog gives away plot points to the film “Roman Holiday” and “Once”. I realize the former has been out for decades. Still, if you don’t want to be spoiled, then don’t read this piece.
Yesterday, I had the gift of a day off – my first full day off in two weeks. I enjoyed my time, getting my hair cut, reading and watching a movie at home, before spending the evening with friends. I was searching through Netflix, deciding what film to watch when I came across the classic, “Roman Holiday.” I had seen the film a couple of times back when I first started college, and thought it would be fun to watch again.
Of course, the film has such gorgeous settings and can’t help but stir up a desire to spend a warm, sunny day on vacation in Rome. Mostly, I find myself coveting Audrey Hepburn’s amazing haircut. I realize that it would not be a good look on me, but oh how I’d love that hairstyle. Maybe in heaven.
I first watched the film around the time that I went on choir tour to Italy. Upon returning, my friends and I had a movie night and watched “Roman Holiday.” When it came to the end, we were split on our responses to the film. Half of us loved the film and the other half didn’t. And the dividing point came via the film’s ending. While discovering their love for each other, Hepburn and Gregory Peck decide to go their separate ways. I was one of the ones who appreciated the film and its ending.
Now, I do appreciate a happy ending, but I also value an ending that is true. The reality is, sometimes our stories do not turn out as we anticipate. Sometimes the obstacles are too great. Or the most loving response is to stay true to what we’ve been called to. I similarly like the film “Once” for these same reasons. The male and female had a special connection, but their purpose in meeting was to help each other get “un-stuck,” not to be each other’s life companions.
In early theater, plays tended to end with either a marriage or a death. Although, our story endings take more twists and turns today, there still is a continuing tradition of ending with death or marriage scene. Even as I look down my list of DVD’s, this becomes oddly apparent. Marriage, marriage, marriage, death, marriage. As a side note, I’m fascinated the stories that contain both marriage and death (Romeo and Juliet, Shadowlands, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Waking Ned Devine, etc).
Sometimes I want a film that just is happy, but more often, I desire a film that tells a true, honest story. There are times when the obstacles are too great, and no amount of hoping can take away that truth. One cannot just wave a magic wand around and transform the situations that the characters find themselves in (unless this is Harry Potter, yet notice that Rowling does not tend to use magic as a quick fix in the narrative). Ultimately, I have a greater degree of respect when a storyteller takes the necessary steps to end the story in an honest way (which could be joyful or sorrowful), rather than tacking on a “happy ending.”
Sometimes the more interesting story is the one where two do not become one.