Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Our Heroine Loves The Impossible Love Story, Especially When It Stars Robert Mitchum

Last night I watched Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison, and I fell in love with it. It is such a strong story, with fantastic actors playing characters who are truly good people. Plus, it combines two great human dramas: love and war.

The plot revolves around a working-class Marine and a modest Irish nun who find themselves stranded together behind enemy lines on a remote island in the Pacific, circa 1944. At first, the island is deserted (save themselves), but eventually the Japanese build a weather station on the beach, making our hero's and heroine's existences extremely tenuous.

The G.I., Corporal Allison, is an orphan, raised on the streets, with no official religion, and no family except for the Corps. He's a killing-machine Marine, the epitome of the rugged Yank survivor. But never, until he meets Sister Angela, has he used those skills for anything other than his own self-preservation. When he finds Sister Angela alone on the island, he never doubts for one second that it's his duty to look after her, and in doing so, he gives his life meaning for the first time. As he says, "I, uh... I've never loved anyone or anybody before... I've never even *lived* before. Never really... lived... inside."

Awwwww.....come on! Do you have a heart of stone, or is that, like, the sweetest thing ever said on film?

I kept thinking that this movie could never get made this same way nowadays, with it's simple belief in quiet human courage and mutual respect. If it was made today, they'd sleep together, of course, and she'd have a crisis of faith and would end up an agnostic. Mr. Allison would be an atheist, and he'd tell her she was stupid to throw her life away on a God who'd abandoned her on the island. And she'd tell him that was true, and then there would be sex, and she'd probably stay a nun after their rescue, but it would have nothing to do with her loving Christ, but would be because she wanted to work for social justice. And at the end she'd tell him she was grateful he showed her how to be a real woman, or something ridiculous like that. (Does that sound far-fetched and cynical? Maybe, but then again, I saw the Brideshead Revisited remake/butchering.)

Instead he says this (while drunk, hence the slurring):

Isn't that so much better?! It's still a gut punch to poor Sister Angela, "How are you going to define yourself here, probably for years, without the Church?" But he at least recognizes the Church as a choice, and that he's got the same problem as she, "How do I define myself here, probably for years, without the Corps.?" The answer, of course, is that they only have each other,* and yet it's still impossible for them to be together.

This movie goes into the pantheon of Our Heroine's All-Time Favorites, which hasn't had a new addition since Quiz Show. Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison is that good - because of the story, the acting, the romance, and this shirtless guy:

*They also have God, I know, which is what Sister Angela points out to Corporal Allison at the very beginning of the movie, but during their dark night of the soul it doesn't seem that way to either of them.


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