John Keats may have died at 25, but he was able to articulate the feelings of mortality better than anyone. What urged him on in his poetic career was the foreboding he felt about life ending too soon. In order to achieve what he believed to be the true poetic task, he allowed himself to feel intensely, including the opposite emotion present in every feeling—for example, the “melancholy in delight” and the “pleasure in pain.” (See also the subtitle of this post). I turned to my Norton Anthology’s biography of John Keats because the same sentiments came to me a few days after I saw I’ll See You in My Dreams.
I enjoyed the film because of the main character, Carol Petersen (the wonderful Blythe Danner), with her unapologetic attitude and cozy if not monotonous (but classy) routine. She is a widow in her 70s who has friends (Yes!–June Squibb, Rhea Perlman, Mary Kay Place) who themselves want to continue to live active lives. They encourage her to do the same, which means entering into the dating scene (Sam Elliott). Carol is reluctant because that has not fit into her lifestyle for quite some time. I also enjoyed the film for its (what I call) realistic treatment of a person’s life. The film, directed by Brett Haley and written by Haley and Marc Basch, has the tagline “Life Goes On. Go With It.” To me the film is about the difficulty of taking that advice. The difficulty comes as the result of many circumstances. Age and one’s capacity (willingly or unwillingly) to experience the sadness in joy or the fear in exhilaration are two of those.
How we allow ourselves to have (or not have) experiences, which is usually a reaction to what we have been through in our lives, has a major impact on the choices we make. For people who do desire romantic love or companionship, the prospect of being alone for the rest of their lives (although the word “alone” does sound strong, people use it) seems to be felt more keenly with age because we tend to look back at the amount of time we’ve been in a certain situation. Still, others are new to the experience because they’ve either just decided that they would like a long-term relationship or one has just ended after a long time. I’ll See You in My Dreams gives us insights into these questions, and it certainly lets us know that life does not end because we reach a certain age. Also, through a key relationship (Martin Starr), there is something else I love in film—the mixture of youth and experience. Despite all of the discouragement I carry when I think about my future, when I think of this film I think of possibilities—no guarantees, but of what could happen.
“I loved my feet on the boards” -Blythe Danner talks about her love of theatre acting, among other things, in this interview (also below) from DP/30.
“That’s what a good script will get for you—a good cast.” -Mary Kay Place. This is a must-see! I’ll See You in My Dreams DP/30 interview with Rhea Perlman, Mary Kay Place, and June Squibb!