When Hollywood makes a movie about a spouse who has lost a significant other, the story usually evolves around the wife. How she deals with the loss, the grief, her support group and how she manages to get her life back on track for the sake of her children and herself. But Sleepless In Seattle is a totally different kind of widower movie.
The movie released in 1993 was helmed by Nora Ephron from a story by Jeff Arch, the movie casts a pre Oscar winner Tom Hanks as the widower Sam Baldwin who is learning to cope with the loss of his wife, raising his son Jonah ( as portrayed by Ross Malinger) alone and helping the child to adjust to life without his mother, as well as trying to get his own personal life back on track. The movie is based upon the old plot of a grieving widow who needs to get on with life. Its plotline centers on the little known truth that men also grieve when their spouse is taken away from him by illness and death.
Tom Hanks is highly effective as the spouse who is so deeply affected by his wife’s death that he practically places his life on hold except for the basic things that he needs to do such as raise his son and earn a living. Although his friends and family rallied to his side upon the death of his wife either by attending the funeral, being more active and present in his and his child’s life, even going as far as to refer him to support groups and psychiatrists in order to help him deal with his loss, Sam still feels alone and keeps his grief to himself.
For him, the best solution seemed to be to move to another place and try to start life anew. He chooses to be alone with his memories of his wife and deal with his grief privately and alone, but his son has other ideas. Little Jonah has decided that his dad has grieved enough (it has been a year since his mother died) and his dad needs serious help. So one night, the boy sneaks a phone call to a radio psychologist and relates the personal turmoil of his father.
The doctor then asks to speak to his father in order to help him and advise him about how to let go of the memory of his wife and move on with life. The doctor gives him the handle Sleepless in Seattle while advising him to move on with his life because his son now believes that he needs a wife to care for them. The movie dealt with the reality that the death of a spouse is not easy for the widowed husband or wife. The remaining spouse has to accept the reality that the life he once had with his wife, that which made him feel happy and complete has come to an abrupt end.
In her personal blog, a woman who simply goes by the name Sara indicated that men deal with the loss of the wife in a different manner because widows “tend to lose their social networks since their wives the family ‘kinkeepers. ’ According to the article Good Grief: Bouncing Back From a Spouse’s Death in Late Life, Deborah Carr indicates that certain personal and social factors should be considered when helping the widower move on with his life.
1 Sara makes references to this article in her blog wherein she argues that (as cited in Carr, 2007 ) “the age of the husband and wife, how the spouse died, and what the couple’s life was like prior to the death are the most important factors that influence spousal bereavement. ” In the movie, Sam embodies this personal turmoil by refusing to go on with his life and continuing to mourn her death one year later. Instead of accepting the death of his wife and moving on, he wallows on the what if’s of their married life. Socially husbands tend to grieve for a longer period of time because of the way his wife becomes the crutch of his life.
He does not know how to move on without his wife because of his emotional need to hold on to the past memories of his wife. Sam Baldwin solidly illustrates how a man is lost without his wife. Without her, he lost his desire to dream and achieve more in life because his muse has passed on. He chooses to just live day to day with the hope that eventually, he will stop hurting emotionally. In reality, a man who loses his wife has a tendency to lose his place in the social circles because it was the duty of the wife to set the family social calendar.
Sam Baldwin also showed us the difficulty of having to raise a child in a single parent environment where the grieving and closure process has not been completed. Widowed men also have to deal with the reality that he is now in charge of the household and has to portray the role of mother, wife, father, and financial provider all at the same time. Although considered to be a lightweight romantic comedy, Sleepless in Seattle gives us a realistic look into the life of a grieving husband. The situations portrayed in the movie do happen to male widows in real life.
Due to the loss of the wife, the husband can experience a rollercoaster of emotions. . 2 According to the website planet-therapy. com, in its section regarding Grief: Living with the death of a partner, a grieving widow experiences a gamut of emotions ranging from “feelings of sadness, despair, emptiness, anger and guilt, restlessness and sleep problems, and a sense of inadequacy and concerns about health and well-being. ” In the movie, as Sam Baldwin speaks to the psychologist over the radio, he shares the same list of his grieving experiences with the listeners.
Today’s modern society tends to be more helpful of a spouse who has lost his or her partner through death rather than divorce. Mainly because it is harder for a spouse to get over the death of a spouse rather than what is usually a nasty divorce proceeding. The grieving widow needs more reassurance in life because, if a spouse is lost due to illness, such as the case with Sam Baldwin, his life will effectively be placed on hold until the death of the spouse which will then leave the husband or wife as a socially disconnected entity who will need to rebuild the personality he once had.
Society accepts that it is easier for a divorcee to move on with life. Therefore there is no real need to be an emotional crutch to this person because he or she will want to celebrate the newly gained freedom. In the case of a widower, the death of the spouse usually becomes a traumatic experience wherein the living spouse become uncertain about how to socialize with people and get on with his life. Sometimes, the widow even goes so far as to consider himself or herself a jinx and vows never to remarry.
Between the two, the widows need more reassurance and push towards reclaiming the life he once had or could have once the grief is conquered. This is why in the movie, Sam’s friends rally to his side and help him deal with his reentrance into the social circle. From dating advise, to sexual advice, this is the support group that helped Sam realize that he can let go of his wife’s memory without dishonoring the same.
In reality, a widow tends to continue to speak with the deceased spouse long after death and fiercely holds on to the memory of the deceased even to the point of continuing with their old traditions even if he or she must do it alone. But in the case of Sam, he voluntarily reactivates his social life in an effort to get over his grief and possibly find a mother for his son who needs female guidance as well. In the movie, Sam chooses to eventually go on with his life after the radio consultation causes an influx of postal mail from various single women across the land pour into his home.
This is where the story reaches its complicated plot line. Sam does not show any interest in the mail he receives because he is the kind of man who believes in the old fashioned dating game. He has a few bad dates before finally settling on one woman whom he considers a potential candidate for the role of wife and mother in his family. The problem is that Jonah believes more in fate and makes his choice on the basis of a letter from Annie Reed. A hopeless romantic whose favorite movie is A Love Affair.
Incidentally, A Love Affair plays a pivotal part in the movie as it is used as the reference for the final, climactic scene at the Empire State Building. Although the movie is well crafted and has a good script, I am deeply disturbed with the way the characters of Jonah Baldwin and his friend Jessica were portrayed. With a maturity beyond their ages, and an unbelievably good grasp of adult issues, it is quite disconcerting to watch these two kids work their way around adults to the point of using emotional blackmail to get the parent to do as the child wants.
I am willing to accept that Sam and Annie were meant to be together. But the way they got together is one that would drive a parent to the brink of worry and insanity while totally rejecting any positive outcomes such a scenario may present to all the parties concerned. Had this movie really been based on reality, I sincerely doubt that Sam would have dropped everything and hopped on a plane for New York to find the errant child.
In reality, the parent would be on the telephone with the police trying to coordinate a cross country search since nobody is really sure as to where the child would end up in a city as huge as New York and how. The fact that the child was not punished but instead cuddled in the end by the worried father delivers a bad message as far as I am concerned. To me, it says “Hey, dad does not want to do what I want. I will run away from home. “ We all know how that scenario would have really ended n reality and therefore should have not have been included in the movie.
The movie can be considered a chick flick because it caters to the romantic notions held dearly by women while the men are considered clueless most of the time. When not being regarded as the unbelievably gullible opposite sex. The movie asks us to suspend disbelief for over an hour as we wait to discover if these two people will finally meet and how will that meeting end? The references to the primitive internet of the time was a wonderful throwback to an era when America was still discovering what things could be done online.
Basically a well executed movie, Sleepless in Seattle is a movie made for those who believe that fate and karma will bring love your way even if you have lost hope. I do find it hard to believe though, that two people who do not meet until the very end of the movie and shared no more than a minute glance at each other in the middle of the movie will have an ever after ending. Footnotes 1 See Sara’s blog section number 13entitled Relating to Family Transitions (2007) for the full content of the article Good Grief:
Bouncing Back From A Spouse’s Death in Late Life by Deborah Carr 2 See planet-therapy. com (2007) specially the sections relating to grief and loss, death of a partner, solutions for people who lose a partner, and possibilities for change after the death of a partner. Work Cited Foster Gary (Producer). Ephron, Nora (Director). (1993). Sleepless in Seattle [Motion Picture]. United States: TriStar Pictures. Planet Therapy. (n. d. ). Grief and Loss. Retrieved 21 August 2007 from http://planet-therapy. com/pub/gen_problems/grief/grief-2. html. Sara. (2007, April 26). Family Transitions [Blog 13]. Message posted to http://quicksa. blogspot. com/