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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Movie and Book Scenes that Always Make You Cry

So for some reason, the end of The House of Mirth always gets to me. I recognize that it's a contrived ending and not Wharton's most realistic, but I have never read the last few pages or gotten to the last ten minutes of the (amazing, amazing, amazing) Terrence Davies film without losing it.

I say this because "THOM" was on TV last night and I thought that since I was only watching the last half and I'd seen/read it so many times I'd be immune. But when Gillian Anderson's Lily goes to Selden's rooms and cries and says "I have tried! But I am a useless person," and he doesn't realize what she's about until it's too late I teared up so reliably, I mean streaming right down my face, it was like clockwork.

[Then I started remembering an embrarassing Amtrak train-ride from Boston to New York in which I was re-reading THOM for class and got so upset by the ending I had to hide my face from my fellow passengers. Ah, youth.]

The other movie moment that does this to me is "Sense and Sensibility "'95, when Elinor is leaning over the feverish Marianne saying "don't leave me dearest." Emma Thompson's performance is so good that when her facade of calm and control cracks, mine always does too.

In fact there's a similarity between those two moments: both women struggling so hard to remain calm in impossible circumstances that you, the viewer, don't realize how much tension has been built up throughout the film. And then when they break down at last it's a huge whoosh of emotion.

As for books, I've never read the end of most of the Anne of Green Gables books, particularly #1 and Rilla of Ingleside, without wanting to curl up in a ball and sob for a few hours. Pride and Prejudice usually has me sniffling with happy tears at the end, (but the '95 miniseries doesn't--it just makes me grin like an idiot.)

And then of course, there's Little Women. I've stayed away from re-reading it for a few years because Beth's fate always provokes too strong a reaction, ever since I was 7 or 8 and I went into the living room and said "Mommy, what's going to happen to Beth?" and in the moment of indecision on her face as to how to answer me, I SAW IT ALL. Oh, and here's an addendum: In the Winona Ryder movie version, I start crying when she rejects Christian Bale/Laurie and keep going through Beth's death, but that brings up a separate thread, which is "literary couples who should have just gotten together already!"

So what books or films make you cry no matter how many times you've seen them?


  1. i don't think i've ever been moved to tears by a book, sadly, but movies that always make me cry include "field of dreams," "rudy," and "ET"

  2. Anything by Jhumpa Lahiri.

  3. @Zach, those are all excellent tear-jerkers that often get to me as well.

    As for Jhumpa Lahiri, FR, The Namesake is probably up there for me too. I stayed up all night reading it and then cried bitterly for about an hour (which was a weirdly identical experience to how I read Harry Potter #5--up all night and then tears--ha.)

  4. Jane Eyre, either the book or the Joan Fontaine movie.

    The Kite Runner. I haven't seen the movie, but the book dissolves me.

    As Good as It Gets - the movie that made me love Jack Nicholson in spite of myself, and absolutely adore Greg Kinnear.

    Actually, I cry over tv commercials, so I'm probably not the one to ask.

  5. Oh my GOD, the Anne books are so sad in so many places. Pretty much all of Rilla of Ingleside and the part in Anne of the Island where Gilbert almost dies from scarlet fever (or whatever it was)... Tragic.

    I cried at the end of Atonement when I read it as well.

    But my number one is The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. Tragic, haunting and almost unbearably sad from beginning to end. I can barely even think about it without getting teary!

  6. Never cried reading a book, but couldn't hold back my tears watching "Million dollar baby", "La Môme", "The diving bell and the butterfly" and "Mar adentro" (The sea inside).