Okay. I admit it. I’m an emotional clicker. I sit in front of the TV with the remote control at the ready. Enter a scary scene, embarrassing scene, obnoxious voice, too much blood, a snake or large spider, or an animal about to shred another living being, and my fingers jab madly. I am such a wuss and that’s why I love pure romance. Except then there are the emotional scenes, you know, the greeting card moments. Tenderness that makes my throat feel like it has a hot potato stuck in it, followed swiftly by a tight chest, and then a cascade of tears.
I wondered about this as I choked up in a film I’d seen a gazillion times. I do this when reading books too. I cry in exactly the same scene. So what is it? Is it the writer’s skill in portraying the character, the dialogue that conveys that message of emotion, the musical score, or is it the actor’s expressions? I began an experiment with that book/movie that had made me sob like a baby, Sense and Sensibility. The movie production that I own stars Emma Thompson, Kate Winslett, Alan Rickman, and Hugh Grant. I questioned which emotion had touched me when Edward came back to visit Elinor.
After rewinding the movie, I closed my eyes to block the facial expressions on the screen and studied how the dialogue built to create the tension.
Elinor puts on her brave face, again, so she can congratulate Edward on his marriage. Each word is carefully chosen to build upon the last. It hit me then that good dialogue is not information giving, and it isn’t chit-chat, it’s an emotional investment. It’s an investment in that character. I heard the tremble in Elinor’s voice, noticed a pause or hesitation, an exclamation or emotional inflection, a half-finished sentence, a perfect word that evoked a picture in my mind.
There were murmurings and explanations from Edward. “You mean my brother’s wife, Mrs. Robert Farris…I recieved a letter from Miss Steele, Mrs. Farris…a transfer of affections…time spent in London…only right…change in my circumstances…they were married last weekend.”
Elinor: “Then you…you’re not married?”
By keeping my eyes shut and listening to the words spoken I could create the character’s facial expressions and actions in my mind, allowing me to get inside the character’s head and heart. I wasn’t being swept away by a pretty face, or a well-lit and well-dressed scene. When it came to the big black moment–when all seemed lost and something had to die so something could live–Elinor’s deep sobs were like the breaking of a dam wall as she let go of her more practical side and allowed her true feelings to show. The dissolution of Edward’s engagement allowed for the rebirth of their love.
Her loud sobbing was totally unladylike but it told him more about their love than any words could convey. Those tears reassured Edward and encouraged him as he explained and consoled. He had met Lucy when he was very young and impressionable. He thought Elinor viewed him now as only a friend and thought he risked his heart alone. He had come to visit without expectation. And then there is that fabulous line that cinched it all:
Edward: “My heart is and always will be, yours.”
I finally had my answer. It was Elinor’s courage that made me cry. Even though they had no prior understanding, she knew in her heart that she loved Edward and that he loved her. Her willingness to show her vulnerability, her relief, her love for him, and how her tears washed away the prior hurts and left them both with a clean new beginning, was for me the perfect ending. And isn’t that what excellent romance writing and reading, or in this case movie watching, is all about? What do you think about this romance? Is there another film, or novel, that has touched you in the same way this one did for me?