August 16, 2013

The Sense of an Ending

"I keep thinking about this river somewhere, with the water moving really fast. And these two people in the water, trying to hold onto each other, holding on as hard as they can, but in the end it's just too much. The current's too strong. They've got to let go, drift apart. That's how it is with us. It's a shame, Kath, because we've loved each other all our lives. But in the end, we can't stay together forever." - Never Let Me Go

"She thinks very distinctly of two things. The first is a photograph of herself at nine years old in a red swimsuit on a beach, she can't remember where, Filey or Scarborough perhaps. She is with her mother and father who are swinging her towards the camera, their sunburnt faces buckled with laughter. Then she thinks of Dexter, sheltering from the rain on the steps of the new house, looking at his watch, impatient; he'll wonder where I am, she thinks. He'll worry. Then Emma Mayhew dies, and everything she thought or felt vanishes and is gone forever." - One Day

A few years ago I read Never Let Me Go and One Day consecutively—I don't know why, maybe I'm sadistic. I think I must have cried for a week. Both books were optioned and made into films, in 2010 and 2011, respectively. More tears.

I love a heartrending ending, more than anything.

Like The English Patient, a movie I've watched a hundred times—20 times before I moved to Cairo in 1999, only to find out later on that the film was actually shot in Tunisia.

The scene when Almasy rescues Katherine from the plane her husband crashed, trying to kill them all: "Of course, you idiot, I always wear it, I've always worn it. I've always loved you."

Also this scene, in the cave. "I promise I'll come back for you. I promise, I'll never leave you."

"Every night I cut out my heart, but in the morning it was full again."

Endings don't need to be highly-produced melodrama to appeal to my nihilistic preferences. I love that movie Up In The Air and its anti-love-story ending where Alex tells him, "You are an escape, you are a break from our normal lives. You are a parenthesis."

And I could never leave Atonement off this list. One of the most heartbreaking stories, from beginning to end with Keira Knightley and James McAvoy perfectly cast in the film adaptation.

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about beginnings and endings. For lots of reasons, but mostly because I'm trying to wrap my mind around storytelling—and I'm working on my first-ever fiction.

I think what appeals to me, at my core, about these deeply sad endings is that they feel profoundly honest, incredibly human, and while they'll rip your heart out and make you cry, all these stories are really about the power of love.