Sister Movies

Monday, April 10th was National Siblings Day reminding me, as if I needed a reminder, to celebrate the indelible bond I share with my sister. I've written of our relationship before and how a love of music often brought us together when we were young. After nearly forty years together (where does the time go?) there are many stories left to tell. Aside from music, I can think of many movies the two of us have always held near and dear throughout our ever changing and everlasting relationship.

Whenever we reunite there are two cherished movies, which we refer to ingeniously as "Sister Movies," that we love to watch together.


Sense and Sensibility (1995)

My sister, a huge Jane Austen fan, was likely the first to suggest we watch Ang Lee's splendid adaptation about the Dashwood sisters, Elinor (Emma Thompson) and Marianne (Kate Winslet). Growing up it was obvious, to everyone probably, that my approach to life and love was similar to Marianne's, whereas my elder sibling's was much more reserved and dependable, like Elinor. Today I'd say that, well, not much has changed really, but of course neither character can fully encapsulate who we are and I'd venture that there are pieces of Elinor and Marianne in both of us. What I can tell you with absolute certainty is that neither of us ever comes across this movie without texting the other that it's on and that neither of us will ever make it through the scene where Elinor sits at Marianne's bedside without blubbering. "Please, dearest, beloved Marianne, do not leave me alone."

Little Women (1994)

Louisa May Alcott wrote the pinnacle of sister stories and I never tire of Gillian Armstrong's adaptation. As writers, both my sis and I relate strongly to Jo March (Winona Ryder), but as a girl I also felt a kinship with Beth (Claire Danes) who was happy just to stay at home with Marmee. An ongoing joke between us with this one is how much we've always despised the character Amy (Kirsten Dunst/Samantha Mathis). While tolerable as a snooty young girl who doesn't know any better, we always pitied poor Laurie (Christian Bale) for getting stuck with her in the end. There are so many moments to love in this movie, but Jo March eloquently sums up exactly why it's so meaningful to us: "I could never love anyone as I love my sisters."

I can think of a number of other movies we could add to create a Sister Movie Marathon, many which we have watched together at one point or another: Practical Magic, The Virgin Suicides, A League of Their Own, Ginger Snaps. Pretty much anything I watch with a storyline about sisters is going to speak to me on a deeper emotional level. Sisterhood is the type of relationship I can't begin to describe to anyone who hasn't had it and one I don't have to describe to anyone who has. It's fun, it's infuriating, and it can get very complicated, but overall it's one of the most meaningful connections I've been lucky enough to have in my life.

Aside from the obvious, there are movies my sister and I watched together that became special to us for other reasons. The most prominent on that list would have to be The Lost Boys--which I'd argue still holds up so well because it centers around the close sibling bond between Michael (Jason Patric) and Sam (Corey Haim). It was the first R-rated movie we ever watched together and our introduction to a lifelong love of vampire stories. If I remember correctly, it was also the doorway to our first celebrity crushes. She was smitten with Billy Wirth and Kiefer Sutherland, while my bedroom walls featured the two Coreys and Jason Patric. I remember being so obsessed that we would reenact the bridge scene on our swing set in the backyard. It became our ritual to watch it every Friday night for months until we knew every line by heart. I'd wager that together we could still recite the entire movie from beginning to end. "I'm your brother, Sammy, help me!"

My sister and I were always pretty close, but it wasn't until I got a little older and started showing interest in things she liked that we developed a deeper bond. A bond that stretched beyond being two members of the same family to being best friends. I was lucky to always have her as my guide. She got everywhere first and she never held back from sharing what she discovered along the way. Now, despite distance and differences she's still my closest friend. She will always be sense to my sensibility and I could never love anyone as I love her. We're bound by, not only blood, but a shared lifetime of encounters and experiences. Once we had shared it, something as simple as a song became more than a song and a movie so much more than a movie. They became bookmarks to times we spent together as girls. Times we still revisit over and over again when we're together. You can never really go back and relive the past, but if you're lucky, like I am, you have someone by your side with whom to remember and cherish it for a lifetime.

These Things Matter

Back when I was a kid trying to survive the horror of school hallways, it was easy to spot potential friends based on whatever movie or band they had plastered across their t-shirt. Failing that, a quick peek at someone's notebook or backpack offered hints of what they were intodrawing movie titles and band names all over my notebooks was a back to school ritual. When we were young and socially inept, advertising the things we loved acted as an invitation to others to approach us and start a conversation. Somehow it lessened the fear of rejection since it was obvious we'd have at least one thing in common. Many of my school friendships began this way, based on a mutual love of, what some may consider, trivial things.

If you were lucky, these friendships expanded beyond the thing that brought you together. Yet even if it didn't, at least you had that one friend you could be yourself around. And by be yourself I mean gush endlessly about your love of Nine Inch Nails, or launch into graphic detail about your fantasy of the perfect date with Lloyd Dobler. You could spout John Hughes quotes all day long and never receive a sideways glance, because the two of you could have entire conversations in movie quotes and it never got old.

They got it.

They understood how much these things meant to you. That these things helped you get through the day. Most importantly, they got it because they'd actually taken the time to listen to you. They knew the stories behind your love of every song and every movie. For some reason, speaking with passion about these things
outside your inner circle didn't fly. For some reason, it still doesn't.

There have been many times in life when I've been embarrassed to talk passionately about my love of certain things, specifically movies. When I was younger I could chalk it up to shyness and difficulty articulating my thoughts. Now that I'm older I've learned that people generally aren't interested in listening to someone talk about movies for longer than a few seconds. I've become accustomed to holding back during those day-to-day conversations you have in passing.

"Hey, did you see that movie?"
"Oh yeah, it's great!"
"I know, right? So cool."

In these scenarios I can usually sense not to go into too much detail about my thoughts on the subject.
Except, the thing is, I actually want to talk about movies. I want to talk about them like I did with that friend in school. I realize now how special those connections really were. These days the average person is happy to have their own opinion and go about their day. Finding someone who cares enough to dive a little deeper is pretty rare. That's fine, I don't want to bother you with the story of why I felt so connected to Lux in The Virgin Suicides when she reluctantly drags her records down the stairs. And I don't want to keep you with tales of why I wept during the famous scene of Singin' in the Raina moment I must have seen a thousand times in film retrospectiveswhen I first watched it in its entirety. Movies aren't trivial for me.

The reason why we connect with the things we do runs much deeper than merely being entertained. We experience all forms of art through the lens of our personal history, which gives them the power to create an emotional connection. What I love about movies is recognizing pieces of my own life within the stories they tell. There are times when it feels as if they're speaking directly to me in particular moments of sadness or hardship. Sometimes movies articulate the parts of life we have difficulty understanding. That's powerful. This is why I personally love hearing someone who is excited about a film speak passionately about their perspective. It gives me insight into their life. By speaking they're advertising what they love, while simultaneously revealing where they come from. When we use the opportunity to share these stories with others, with passion, we invite them into our world. Just like that kid with the NIN t-shirt in the hallway at school.

As an adult I've noticed that a lot more conversation is required to find members of your tribe amidst the crowd. Although, many of us are still rockin' the band tees so feel free to say hi! It can be discouraging when someone tunes you out or changes the subject when you're in the middle of a passionate speech about how you couldn't stop sobbing in a Taco Bell after seeing The Good Son. In the past this attitude has caused me to tone things down, to retreat inside myself, and to stop advertising my excitement about movies. Hard telling how many potential connections I missed out on in the process. Now, I've pledged to never dilute my passion again. If someone doesn't want to listen to what I have to say then I will gladly seek out the company of those who do.*

I know it can be embarrassing and your voice may shake with uncertainty, but you have to speak up to find your kind of people. The people who are willing to listen and share in a discussion about things they would never consider trivial. It's in the sharing that we discover something special. It's in the sharing that friendships form. Like when you're gushing about that movie you've watched twenty times that someone else might think is all right and never think of again, yet you'll never forget it. Tell them why. Whether it's spouting a quote from it in passing that grabs the attention of someone in the room, or maybe even sparks a heated debate over its artistic merit. Either way, the invitation is open and the conversation has begun. You can tell a lot about a person by the things that they're into. These things help us connect, with ourselves and with other people. So, speak up. Someone will listen and if you're lucky, they'll get it. And while it may all seem trivial to some, I'm telling youwith passionthese things matter.


*This piece is dedicated to my friends who get it. Thank you for always listening to me.