I have found myself inundated with stories and movies and music about broken relationships–marriages, parent-child, friendship, dating…In fact, I was pretty nauseated by the time I finished reading “The Memory Keeper’s Daughter” and watching “The Last Kiss.” Not necessarily naueated by the stories themselves. The human aspects of both I thought were pretty realistic, sadly. I felt sick because of the things that we do to the people we care about, either intentionally or unintentionally, no matter what justifying motive we have.
The husband/father in “The Memory Keeper’s Daughter” decides to give away his newborn daughter with Down’s Syndrome without ever telling his wife or son. In the name of protecting those he loves the most, of wanting to shield them grief, he hides the truth from them and ultimately causes a pain much deeper than the one he was trying to prevent. His secret becomes a weight on, and ultimately defines, his existence. His wife and son are left with the empty, paralyzing feeling of being unable to change the past. The narrator’s omnicient position is coveted, because only he and the reader can glimpse into the being of each person and see the longing and pain within each heart. The characters themselves have created a dance of stepping around all things real and are unable to see the complexity and mystery that lies within their own family.
Every relationship in “The Last Kiss” is falling apart to an unsettling degree. Every character in his/her late twenties is having a crisis in their relationship. A thirty year marriage where people feel unseen, a young couple with a baby where fights occur more often than any other conversation, and the picture perfect dating couple getting scared about what the future holds once they find out they are having a baby. That is the relationship we follow closely throughout the movie. We watch Michael get scared and flirt, literally, with a life that doesn’t have a “set” future. He makes conscious decisions that he knows will hurt Jenna, his girlfriend and mother of his unborn baby, curses at himself, and does it anyway. His confusion and fear is natural. But the decisions that he makes are the essence of how people make decisions on the fly too often without considering the people they care about. In the name of independent spirits and thinking and in the name of taking control of our lives and pursuing what feels best at the moment, we immediately lost sight of what actually matters.
Why can’t we be open, truthful and loving? Truth is rarely easy to hear. But why are we afraid of it?
Why is it so hard to tanglibly put the needs of the people we care about above ourselves?
To process through this at eleven last night, I made pancakes and listened to Joshua Radin. Ha. I felt that throughout my day, I had just looked at the gut of humanity (through text, of course…until I realized that I fit into this category of selfish reflection and motivations just as much as the next person…or character…). And not only in the conscious-decision selfishness, but in refusing to look at the whole picture of any situation from anyone’s perspective but mine–the trap that David Henry fell into in “Memory Keeper.” This is not to say that I think we are all just jerks (sorry, I’m lumping everybody in). It’s to say that I think we need to think. About others. Period.
Jenna’s father in “The Last Kiss” in both a “you broke my daughter’s heart” moment as well as one that is self reflective upon his own marriage, says something to MIchael along the lines of “You are the only person your feelings matter to. it doesn’t matter what you say or how you feel, it matters what you do and how you show it.” What immediately came to mind was what Paul wrote to the Galatians: the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. The only thing. The on