18 February 2006 | playwrite2000
Anthony Minghella, the film director, is a sneaky guy. He sets up "Truly, Madly, Deeply" as a 3 hankie weeper as Juliet Stevenson mourns the death of her young husband, inadvertently asphyxiated by an endo tube after getting "a sore throat". She isolates herself from her friends, gets snappy with well meaning relatives, bawls at the first cords of an overheard cello (hubby played one and she accompanied him on the piano), and winds up on a therapist's couch. Ah, she had such a sweet, caring, satisfying relationship with this talented, intelligent, good looking man. How tragic that his unfulfilled life should be cut so callously short leaving this truly wonderful woman bereft and in despair. So, here we are, the audience, blowing our noses, wiping our eyes, feeling her loss and wondering ourselves how we would handle such a dreadful event. We think of the lovers, spouses, children in our lives. How close and intimate we are with them and how close all of us are to being summoned by the Grim Reaper without notice. Our sympathies are totally with this grieving young woman. Imagine our glee when out of nowhere the decedent appears, back from the beyond, in the flesh. Amazing. We vicariously feel the thrill the wife feels as she leaps into his arms, madly embracing the man she thought she'd lost forever. He's back. All of him... and there's Minghella's rub. It soon becomes evident that the husband has returned, not to haunt her or torment her, but only to be himself and with a totally unexpected agenda. He returns with his good habits (they play the word games they always used to pass the time with, they frolic, they joke and laugh and look deep into each other's eyes) but he also brings along his bad traits, and it's difficult accommodating oneself to his pushy, egotistic behavior, even if he is a ghost. Patrick Sweazy made a back-from-the-dead flick ("Ghost") where he hovered over Demi Moore and made her widowhood bearable. She always knew he was there. And what a wonderful guy he was. Sweetness and light. But TMD is no "Ghost". Menghella says, instead, wait a minute. The one we grieve for was a multi-dimensional person. How soon we forget the bad and glorify the good. After the "honeymoon" is over, the widow in his movie begins to feel a bit crowded. Her husband's always complaining about how cold the flat is, turning up the heat, sneezing from the drafts, shoving up against her in bed with his clammy body. He's learned Spanish but his accent is atrocious. He brings back some "friends" with him, a motley crew, all polite, but given to watching videos ("I Vitelloni", "Hannah and Her Sisters") at all hours of the day and night. The husband rearranges the furniture. Then, she meets a wonderful man in a restaurant. He works with the disabled and does magic tricks. He wants to date her. She's attracted to him. But what does she do with the living dead hubby at home? How can she entertain anyone? Must her life now accommodate his death? Her therapist is noncomittal. The denouement is absolutely spot on.