With it being the week of my anniversary (six years together!), I thought I would highlight a few filmic examples of great marriages. There are plenty of fantastic movies that focus on marriage in general, but these are typically cynical or end in divorce (e.g. Scenes from a Marriage, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Blue Valentine) These relationships aren't glitzy or glamourous, nor do they sum up their struggles with a montage. Marriage requires hard work, self sacrifice, and the redemptive power of the Gospel to truly thrive. These are films that depict marriages beyond the initial romance and the wedding day; these couples are in it for the long haul.
Another Year (Mike Leigh): Filmmaker Mike Leigh loves to find the extraordinary in everyday circumstances, choosing to focus on characters who navigate difficult emotional tasks with a sense of optimism and hope. The happy couple in Another Year is Tom and Gerri, an elderly pair who love food, gardening, and having friends over for dinner. Most of their friends are sad, lonely people, with a penchant for self-destruction. Tom and Gerri are the anchor for these people, and their happiness is enough to spill over and splash onto their unhappy friends, allowing them to experience joy, even if only for the duration of a meal. The connection these two have is never broken, never wavers. They've found some secret to long-term happiness, and it shines.
Win Win (Thomas McCarthy): A struggling lawyer, Mike, takes a young man under his wing after some questionable business dealings with a client. When the teen turns out to be a wrestling phenomenon, Mike finds a renewed sense of hope in his dreary life. The relationship between Mike and his wife, Jackie, is deeply affecting, and while they have numerous flaws and conflicts throughout the film, they only serve to deepen their love and strengthen their commitment. As his shady business deal is brought to light and they struggle with the future of the young man they've grown to love, Mike and Jackie choose to walk alongside each other through the mess.
Take Shelter (Jeff Nichols): Curtis is having visions. These visions are dark and frightening in nature, waking him up in the night. Curtis has a family--his wife, Samantha, and their daughter, Hannah. He doesn't want these visions to harm them, and takes the necessary actions to protect them. As the visions mount, he begins to build a storm shelter in their backyard. As his sanity becomes more and more questionable, Samantha continually comes alongside him to support him. There is a beautiful scene where Samantha walks up to Curtis as he stands over his shelter. "Are you gonna leave me?" he asks. It's not a demanding question; he understands that she could--and maybe should--leave him for what he's done. She just slips her hand into his as her answer. He is protecting his family in the only way he knows how; she is loving and caring and confident and strong.
Up (Pete Docter): Carl and Ellie's love story is only ten minutes long as the opening scenes of Pixar's masterpiece, but they are some of the most romantic opening scenes in any film. Every time I see it, I am still brought to tears by the conclusion of this opening sequence. That's the power of a good story. Carl and Ellie lived a good story, one that is soaked in a committed love that never fails. The rest of the film is Carl's adventure to South America, but we can never forget his motivation for that journey--his deep love for Ellie.
Make Way For Tomorrow (Leo McCarey): When an elderly couple, Barkley and Lucy Cooper, loses their home to financial misfortune, they are forced to separate after 50+ years of marriage and live with their adult children. Their children treat them like a burden, a weight inside their house due to their old-fashioned and stubborn ways. While the children aren't entirely wrong in this assessment, the couple is really struggling with being apart after living together for so many years. Portrayed with charisma and authenticity by Victor Moore and Beulah Bondi, the aged Coopers' affection for one another is as admirable today as it was 74 years ago. Their history is filled with bumps and bruises, but all is remembered with an aura of love. The film teeters on being overly sentimental without ever falling into the chasm of mawkish emotional manipulation. If this movie communicates anything, it's the possibility that committed and loving marriages really can happen with hard work and a bit of grace. And bring some tissue, as the climactic finale is unlikely to leave viewers dry-eyed.
What other movies depict great marriages? Share them in the comments!