I won't say that crying during movies is particularly unusual for me, anymore than laughing out loud at a clever commercial. This heightened sensitivity is a trait I developed when my son entered the world and I found myself completely responsible for this tiny person nestled in my arms. But I will say that, normally, I just tear up or feel my eyes burning in a touching scene. Rarely do the sentiments spill over so readily or profusely. I wiped my cheeks with the back of my hand several times over the course of the movie and couldn't speak without the tell-tale cracking of my voice.
(Spoiler Alert: discussion of plot to follow)
I think what touched me so deeply was the sincere love between Elli and Carl, the couple who fall in love with each other as children over their mutual thirst for adventure and then remain in love throughout their lives, thanks to their kind and devoted companionship. A five minute montage of their life--showing their wedding, their purchase of the abandoned house in which they meet, their loss of a baby, Elli's dream to move to Paradise Falls in South America, Carl's promise ("Cross my heart") to make it so, and the ways everyday life, loss, and responsibility got in the way of their dream--speaks volumes about the nature of life and relationship: life does not always go according to plan, but it remains good because of who it is shared with.
After a full life of work, home, and relationship, their hair now gray, their bodies succumbing to gravity, Carl figures out how to make their dream a reality. He tucks two plane tickets to Paradise Falls into the picnic basket they will take to their favorite picnic spot, hoping to surprise his bride with her dream come true. But as they climb the familiar hill to the grass beneath the oak, Elli falls ill--and Carl is left to write the rest of his adventure alone. A charming and tender story ensues, following Carl's quest to finally make a home for himself and his wife's memory in South America, which is threatened by unlikely traveling companions and a fear-driven villain. In the end, he finds permission to let go of their original dream in order to live more fully in his present opportunities for friendship, mentorship, and love.
I love, love, love this movie, and I keep wondering why it resonates so deeply with me. The story is sincere and brave, the characters endear themselves to us, and the three-quarter time music waltzes us through this whimsical world that seems bright and manageable, if not downright delightful. But those are only shadows of the real light in the story, which I think is the genuine love of a man and wife--so strong and true, it sacrifices everything for each other. She surrenders her dream of adventure for life with him, which turns out to be the ultimate adventure. He, in turn, leaves behind everything he knows and understands to fulfill her deepest desire, even though she can no longer share the journey. Both are driven by their love for each other. Both find themselves fulfilled by their genuine love for each other.
At the risk of sounding totally sappy and sentimental, I get this. I get their love because it's the kind of love Josh and I share. Life in all of its mundaneness and responsibility is good because we get to share it with each other. Circumstances change, dreams rise and fall, people come and go, but the constant is us. Every day. Together. I love the movie because I recognize us in the characters.
Josh shares my dreams. He encourages my endeavors. He supports my desires, regardless of whether he thinks they're sane. When I ask, "Do you think I could go to the Iowa Summer Writing Festival for a weekend to learn how to blog?" he smiles, admits he thinks it's crazy, and then does everything he can to make it happen. He loves me. And if I told him I wanted to live atop Paradise Falls, he would devote himself to making it so, even if he had to fly us there with a thousand balloons.
And so I ache with Carl, this fictional old man who, ten minutes into the movie, finds himself suddenly alone in a world that has moved on while he and his wife were dreaming their dreams, and living. And I will probably cry every time I watch this beautiful little movie and see this man attempt to make sense of his life without his life. Because the mere thought of being alone in this world without Josh leaves me unable to breathe. Because I can't imagine having to create a life without him.
Hopefully, we'll get to have many, many years of living together. And in the time we get to share on this earth, I will love him as well as I can.
Cross my heart.