Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Gone Too Soon: Anthony Minghella's Truly, Madly, Deeply

News of the death of film director and playwright Anthony Minghella came as a sad surprise. Only 54 when he died, Minghella joins the angel ranks of Jean Vigo and Welles, directors with so much unused talent that we mourn the films they did not have time to make.

Anthony Mingella's version of The English Patient was a graceful, sensual and sensitive adaptation of a beautiful book and Cold Mountain had some powerful moments, but my favorite Minghella film is his first feature, Truly, Madly, Deeply.

This small movie, an antidote to the schmaltz of Ghost, is the story of a woman (brilliantly played by Juliet Stevenson, for whom Minghella wrote the film,) whose grief for a dead lover is so deep, she calls him back from the grave.

I first watched this movie from one of the cramped seats at the Three Penny when it came to Chicago in 1991. I shed tears at the scenes of Nina's unrelenting grief. I fought back sobs at the raw emotion of her reunion with Jamie (Alan Rickman). I thought, "I've got to remember this Minghella guy."

The director handles the lovers' surreal situation with an odd but appealing mix of realism and dry wit, but Minghella ultimately moves beyond the question "What's it like to share an apartment with your dead lover?" to larger reflections about what it really means to be alive and what it takes to move forward from a past that you love.

Rickman is great at playing villains, or those who appear to be, but here he plays against type. With his elegant voice as deep and sonorous as Jamie's cello and his intense eyes, he is a sexy, charismatic and funny romantic lead.

Like Thanksgiving with my family, Truly, Madly, Deeply has warmth, pain, humor, moments I love more than anything and a couple of moments that make me cringe. For every lovely duet between Rickman and Stevenson (we get an awesome bit of Joni Mitchell's "A Case of You"), there is a cloying scene with her dorky new beau (the usually fierce Michael Maloney).

Here is a great clip. Rickman recites from the poem "La Muerta" by Pablo Neruda, Stevenson is easy to fall in love with and Minghella's writing sings.

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