I am a sucker for soppy films. I haven’t watched Sleepless in Seattle for ages but know that I have wept at it in the past and will do so again. David used to have to remind me that things weren’t real: Alex was disgusted that Isabella and I sat there with tears rolling down our faces, hugging each other, when the dog died in Marley and Me.
I’ve always been a bit prone to tears but pregnancy and having children has made it far worse. While pregnant with Alex I had to stop watching Casualty or Holby City or whichever it was (is?) that was on each Tuesday night. Every Tuesday there seemed to be a story line about a pregnant woman who invariably had a near miss with death, or whose baby/child did. The true account of a dying woman who left detailed instructions to her husband on how to bring up their daughter had floods of tears rolling down my face all the way to work one morning; more recently the atrocious and gruesome murder of Becky Watts has got me similarly churned up. Likewise someone only needs to be telling me about some problem or other he or she is suffering from and my eyes fill with tears.
The comedy film Mrs Doubtfire has never previously made me cry: but watching it this evening with Isabella and Edward I realised there is a serious side to the story; a story which now seemed all too pertinent to my own situation. A couple are unhappy; she is driven, ambitious, busy, career-minded, orderly and organising: he is more laid back, adores his children and is a fun Dad but somewhat irresponsible. When she decides they should separate he is devastated that he won’t be able to see his three children every day: ultimately there is a happy ending and he does get to see them every day.
When I first watched it I, romantic idealist, thought that at the end they were perhaps going to get back together. As I have got to know the film better I realise that it’s unlikely, and that the adults (the parents) are happier apart. What it emphasised today to me was how important it is that children see both their parents regularly, even if they live apart: and how they will still love them both equally and of course potentially develop positive relationships with new partners as well. Moments in the film today made my eyes fill with tears: and of course it’s the children who suffer the most when their parents split up.
This time when I watched it I couldn’t help identifying to a certain extent with Miranda, the mother in the film. Our sympathies are constantly drawn to Daniel/Mrs Doubtfire – he is more fun, more laidback, and appears more passionate about his children – but having lived with someone whose untidiness and, at times, lack of organisation drove me bonkers, today I had more sympathy for the mother. And, of course, at the end she does the right thing: she approaches him, says they should no longer need to fight, and invites him to see his own children every day (which of course also solves her childcare problem, being cynical).
At school our English teacher always said that comedy is far more complex than tragedy. Mrs Doubtfire, despite being an apparently light film, illustrated that to me when I watched today. A parallel sadly reflected in the talented Robin Williams’ tragi-comic life.