Death has its limitations – This is the message in Truly, Madly, Deeply, a wonderful British film that looks at life, death and survival with freshness and sophistication – Aptly described in some circles as “the thinking man’s Ghost“.
Working from his own script, first-time director Anthony Minghella fashioned a fanciful tale about a woman imprisoned in her own grief after the death of her lover and how she learns to live again with the help of the dead man’s ghost.
Nina (Juliet Stevenson) is still grieving after her lover Jamie (Alan Rickman) has suddenly died of a respiratory ailment.
Isolated in her rat-infested flat in North London, she’s got plenty of friends and suitors – including a caring sister, a precocious nephew, an amorous caretaker, a friendly plumber and a sympathetic pest-control man – but Nina is too obsessed with the loss and loneliness left by Jamie’s death to move in any positive direction with her own life.
In her fantasies, Jamie talks to her, plays his cello and occupies his usual space in her dreams. But one day he shows up in person, a ghost in the flesh, unchanged except for the fact that he is always cold (It’s drafty in the after-life).
Nina is euphoric. But then Jamie starts re-arranging the furniture, changing the pictures on the wall, and bringing home fellow ghosts to watch old movies all night on her VCR (you can’t rent videos in the after-life).
“Are you telling me there are dead men in my living room watching Brief Encounter?” she wails – but for a while, the relationship works.
It’s summer, but Jamie heats the flat to 90 degrees and piles the bed with blankets and hot water bottles. And he drives Nina to distraction with his demands (how dare she erase Woody Allen because she can’t work the VCR?).
There’s still love with the exasperation, but what Nina comes to learn is that real life is the thing worth embracing not memories from the past.
What Nina doesn’t know is that Jamie is really there to help her find the way. When Nina leaves the flat and moves into the warming embrace of a new love, Jamie watches through the window with tears in his eyes. He’s learned to let go, too.