“Evening” (2007): Most of the casting was good, except for Vanessa Redgrave (Ann). I don’t really like her in anything. But seeing her opposite her daughter Natasha Richardson was cool. So was Meryl Streep (Lila) as an older version of her daughter. Claire Danes (young Ann) and Hugh Dancy (Buddy) were great! It was funny that his character proposed to hers; that’s just what happened a few years later. I thought the plot interesting, with fully-realized characters. The problem was the directing and screenplay. The flashbacks were so confusing that I didn’t know what was going on. The director was so artsy that he neglected a clear plotline. The deleted scenes filled part of that plotline, so they shouldn’t have been deleted! I’d never watch this movie again.
In “Evening” Ann Grant and Harris Arden spend a weekend together at Lila’s house for her wedding. They consummate their love on the girl’s wedding night, the same night Lila’s drunken brother Buddy dies after a car wreck. Yet afterward the two go their separate ways, for reasons unexplained (part of that muddy plotline). It amazes me that this story is so similar to “Titanic” (1997). In this film Jack Dawson and Rose Bukater also spend a weekend together and consummate their relationship.
So why does this “first time” relationship mean everything to the old women just before they die? Is it because you always remember your first time, your first mistake? Why can these characters not move on? Rose in “Titanic” did move on, marrying someone else and raising children. She seemed happy, a life fully lived with no regrets — but only because she refused to give into her mother and society’s definition of womanhood and marriage. Rose refused to sacrifice her identity in order to make others happy. And she was drawn to Jack because he let her be who she really was on the inside, the person screaming to come out. Rose wanted to marry for love, not money, even though she knew her family was broke. After the ship sank, she surnamed herself “Dawson.” “Titanic” portrays Rose as a hero for this decision.
Unlike Rose, Ann in “Evening” married twice eventually and raised two daughters. Yet she wasn’t happy with either husband, considering herself married to Harris for forty years, just never being with him. What disturbed me was that Ann was so in love with Harris that she couldn’t move on with her life. She ridiculed Buddy for doing the same thing, yet she repeated his mistake after he died. Ann told her first husband that if she went to California with him, she was afraid she’d lose herself. So she left him to raise their daughter alone, before marrying again. But that’s what making sacrifices is: losing yourself. Lila did it by marrying someone she didn’t love. Why couldn’t Ann?
All this talk about not wanting to lose oneself reminds me of a mother who recently gave up her children when they grew older (10+), so she could live her life without the encumbrance — so she could be free to be “single” and do what she wanted. This woman was afraid of drowning, of losing herself and her identity as a mother. How selfish! Being a parent is all about making sacrifices, about daily dying to oneself for the sake of another. Sacrifice is the most complete and truest form of love. It is giving something of oneself in order to make someone else happy or give them pleasure. Yet sacrifice must be performed out of love, not a sense of duty. Otherwise it is incomplete and joyless. “If you don’t have love, you are nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:3).
In each sacrifice you make, joyfully and lovingly think of others — not yourselves. We must have our eyes on Jesus and on the crown/heaven. If we lose sight of either (or both), sacrifice becomes hard. Joy and easiness come when we remember whom we’re making sacrifices for and what we receive in return when we make them. The lesson of John 12:24-25 and 1 Corinthians 15:36 is this: there is no growth or joy without sacrifice. We must give something up!
As selfish as these women were (and are), they all recognized what sacrifice and death to self really mean, as these things relate to one’s identity. That’s more than some Christians are willing to do! These women saw but they couldn’t pay. They couldn’t give what was asked of them. And just what was asked of them? What is Christian conversion, i.e. spiritual baptism? It’s this: losing yourself or drowning — being completely submerged in the water knowing you’ll come back up again. Conversion is like assisted suicide, with Jesus Christ as Dr. Kevorkian.
Yet this is the problem with so many. They don’t want to die to themselves. They’re afraid that if they drown, they won’t come back up again. They think their minds, hearts, and souls will be dead — forever. They don’t have faith that God can raise the dead (metaphorically). People don’t want to become someone else, the possibility not even entering their minds. They want to survive. They want to save themselves. Why not? Survival is a God-given instinct.
So how do we override this? How do we die to ourselves and be born again? Here’s the answer: we must come to Jesus empty-handed, put ourselves in his hands, and fall humbly at his feet, pleading for mercy for our sins. Only then will we be born again. This is easier said than done.