Feb 3, 2009

Shirley Valentine

Re-watched this 1989 release recently with four other women aged 24 to 76. The majority were of British descent, so the film resonates differently for them. I've never met people like those depicted, but evidently some of my viewing companions have.

What struck me is that, despite its overt feminist message that middle-aged women are more than wives and mothers, the film is also gentle and humane.

The husband who treats his wife like a doormat isn't demonized here. We come to understand that his life, too, has stagnated and calcified. Moreover, because we see the heroine being bullied by her neighbor, her friend, and her own daughter, we come to realize that she herself is part of the problem.

The film's over-arching message is not that men (or the system) are bad but that:
  • we each are responsible for the state of our own lives and
  • the power to change things lies within us
From a certain perspective, this movie serves admirably as a time capsule. Twenty years later, it's difficult to believe that large numbers of people - even in the stodgiest corners of the United Kingdom - live like this.

But there was a time when many did.