Truly, Madly, Deeply
Directed by Alan Rickman. Starring Alan Rickman, Juliet Stevenson. (1990)
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., May 24, 1991
Jamie is dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. Dead as a doornail, yes, but like Dickens' Marley, he keeps popping back into the everyday world, anxious to help smooth over the rough edges left by his passing. In Truly, Madly, Deeply, Minghella's first directorial feature, those rough edges seem to be practically all that's left of heroine Nina (Stevenson). With her lover Jamie gone, she finds herself increasingly unable to connect with her surroundings, her relatives, her co-workers, and life in general. It doesn't help any that her new flat is falling apart at the seams and large, evil-looking rats are beginning to crowd her out of what little space she manages to make her own, either. Talking to her analyst, Nina explains that she holds phantom conversations with Jamie's invisible presence: he tells her to keep the back door locked. Adrift in an unhealthy sea of grief and unwilling to let go of the memory of the only man she ever loved, Nina seems to be heading toward a breakdown, until one night Jamie inexplicably returns to her, picking up his beloved cello and accompanying her through some Bach. Jamie (Rickman, best known in America as Bruce Willis's nemesis in the original Die Hard) takes up more or less where he left off in the relationship and naturally Nina is overjoyed at these bizarre developments: her true love is still very much deceased, but now that he's back, life can go on for her (if not, in the strictest sense, for him). But can a relationship -- even one as pure as theirs seems to be -- stolidly continue in the face of death? Of course not, and slowly but surely Nina comes to realize that there may be more to life than sitting around her flat watching old videos with Jamie and his ghostly compatriots. Minghella, directing from his own screenplay, brilliantly dissects the nature of love and loss without ever beating you across the head with the obvious. The dialogue between the two main characters rings true to life as do many of their shared situations: anyone who's ever lived with someone they love will recognize themselves in some of these scenes, as will anyone who's ever lost someone they cared for. This is a wonderful, disarming film, sort of like Ghost, but with all the Hollywood drained from it, leaving nothing on screen but the truth of the matter. Which is the way it should be, of course.