‘Hope Springs’ eternal

One of the reasons why I adore movies is because of their ability to communicate meaningful messages to a wide audience, the emphasis here being on ‘meaningful’.  Hope Springs is one such film as it effectively conveys one of life’s more difficult messages, namely, the struggles of aging in marriage.

In my experience as someone in her later 20’s, many of my peers don’t think about their own relationships beyond whether or not they are going to stick with their current significant other, have children, or (if they’ve just had a child) how to effectively parent. This view was validated at the theater where I noticed that nearly everyone was over age 40, or at the very least, looked over forty. Springs, with its action-less plot, serene setting and unfunny Steve Carell was certainly not marketed towards my demographic and my demographic doesn’t seem to be buying tickets.

However, Springs is a film I would recommend to nearly everyone out of high school, and especially to those in their 20’s. The film is an honest, uncomfortable look at two people who find themselves in an unromantic marriage 31 years after saying ‘I do.’ It’s a nearly universal message about the importance of communicating expectations, desires, and above all, love – areas that should be examined continually through a relationship, rather than at the breaking point.

The brilliance of the film may be in its generic but honest character portrayals. Meryl Streep (Kay) and Tommy Lee Jones (Arnold) play an unremarkable but sincerely relatable couple. On the surface, all seems well; they have well-adjusted adult children, a nice home, two steady respectable jobs, and even seem to like each other (after all, Kay makes Arnold his standard bacon and egg breakfast, and Arnold diligently kisses Kay goodbye each morning). What becomes apparent is that despite the routines, the smiles, the obligatory exchanges and dismal conversations, is that their marriage is virtually devoid of any true affection.

Tired of living with an unfeeling housemate, Kay takes matters into her own hands and signs them both up for intensive couples therapy with famed therapist, Dr. Feld (Steve Carell). It is during these sessions that we see the extent of the couple’s problems and just how easily minor miscommunications and missed opportunities built a seemingly impenetrable wall between the two. As the audience squirms with each question that emanates from Carell’s composed Dr. Feld, one can’t help but wonder along with Kay and Arnold how this awkwardness could have been avoided. While both characters come to conclusions at their own pace, the audience is left to ponder the question introspectively, examining their relations, past, present or even future.

It’s a nice sentiment to think that our romantic relationships will progress gracefully into the realm of ‘happily ever after’ and that our marriage will supersede the need for explaining our inner fears, fantasies and plans for the future. However, the message in Springs is one we need to remind ourselves of, or at the very least be aware of: that even in the most ideal of situations, relationships take work. Check-ins are necessary, meaningful conversations are crucial, and the naïve notion that your significant other ‘knows’ your inner most dreams and desires should be eradicated, the sooner the better.

The honesty and important message of Springs reminds me of why I come back to the movies, especially amidst the Expendables 2, Bachelorette, and Hit & Run’s of the week. Films like Springs remind me of Alexander Pope, the amazing tenacity of the human spirit, and that I’m eternally hopefully that the next movie I watch will also hit home.

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