Would you like a cathartic film to deal with the loss of Alan Rickman? Watch Truly Madly Deeply. It’s a refreshingly low-key ghost movie that came out the same year as Ghost, but attracted much less attention. It also came out two years after Rickman’s star-making performance as the villainous Hans Gruber in Die Hard and the same year he costarred in another excellent film, Quigley Down Under.
Truly Madly Deeply is a touching film that deals with heavy themes of life and death in subtle ways. I’m going to talk a little about this film and some of the wonderful things you’ll find in it. It’s a forgotten film gem that deserves a little love in honor of Rickman’s passing.
When we come into the story, we’re witnessing a woman grieving for her dead husband. Her name is Nina and her husband is Jamie (played by Rickman). Nina is devastated by the loss of her husband, who died suddenly after complaining of a sore throat. She had no time to prepare for his departure or to say goodbye. He was just gone one day.
The Anticipation Is Killing Me
Nina has moved into a new flat (she’s British), hoping to move on with her life, but she just can’t get past her husband’s memory. Despite all of the family members and friends she has in her life, she feels isolated and lonely. We see her going through the motions of working and interacting with people, but we get the sense that she’s slowly dying inside.
This movie does an incredible job of building anticipation for Jamie’s reappearance. We hear his voice at the start and see a brief flashback of him playing a cello, but that’s it for the first half hour of the film. When watching this film, my wife actually asked me if Alan Rickman was ever going to show up. Right when you’re reaching the point where you think Nina is going to die of a broken heart, Jamie suddenly appears in the most casual way. No heavenly light or angelic music. He’s just standing behind her in the middle of her flat, waiting for her to notice him. And when she does, she and the audience are elated.
Truly Madly Deeply doesn’t bother with the usual tropes of ghost films. There are no scenes of:
- A funeral.
- Jamie trying and failing to touch physical objects.
- Jamie explaining that only Nina can see and hear him.
- Nina having to explain to confused people why she’s seemingly talking to no one.
- Jamie saying he’s come back for a reason.
- A discussion of heaven and hell.
- A long, drawn-out goodbye.
Nothing like that at all. It’s really fascinating. Jamie just stays in Nina’s flat the whole time, complains about how cold he is, sneezes, plays his cello and sings with Nina, and talks about seemingly mundane things with her. He can touch her and physical objects just fine.
He keeps warning her to lock her back door because she’s always forgetting to do that. You’d think that this is setting up something important, like one day she’s going to forget to lock her door and someone’s going to break in, forcing Jamie to save her. But no. That never happens. Nothing ever comes of it. His constant pestering over small things is just meant to show that he cares deeply (perhaps even truly and madly) about her.
Día De Los Muertos
Jamie invites a half-dozen other dead men to join him in Nina’s flat. They never have anything profound to say. They just want to watch her extensive collection of old movies and sigh with nostalgia at their old-fashioned portrayals of romance. Without ever playing a huge role, their presence becomes important at the end.
Meanwhile, Jamie frequently uses Spanish words to convey important messages to Nina. She translates Spanish into English for her boss at work and English into Spanish for her pregnant Chilean friend. So Spanish has special significance to her. Jamie doesn’t pronounce words very well in the foreign language, but Nina appreciates his attempts to speak her language. It’s just another way that he shows he cares. This also comes into play at the end.
Over the course of the film Nina meets and becomes enamored with a charming young psychologist named Mark, who has overcome a lot of challenges in his life to get to his current level of success. But she can’t reconcile her feelings for Mark with her dependence on Jamie.
One day her emotions come boiling over and she quarrels with Jamie over the many ghosts haunting her house. She’s tired of not feeling like anything belongs to her and that he is disappointed with her and her choices.
In response, he quietly quotes a portion of Pablo Neruda’s Spanish poem “The Dead Woman,” which Nina helpfully translates into English:
If you are not living,
If you, beloved, my love,
If you have died,
All the leaves will fall on my breast,
It will rain on my soul all night, all day,
My feet will want to walk to where you are sleeping,
But I shall go on living.
Only after the fact do we realize that these are the last words the two will say to each other in this film. Because after this scene, Nina finally admits to herself that she has fallen in love with Mark. She returns home to find the place devoid of ghosts. And even though she’s sad to find that Jamie has gone, she’s not crushed. He has prepared her to let him go and keep living her life without him.
But this film does something truly wonderful at the end. As Jamie silently watches Nina smiling and walking away with Mark, Jamie’s friends are there to support him and congratulate him. So in the end, Jamie and Nina are no longer together, but they are both surrounded by friends who help them find solace and joy to assuage their aching hearts. It’s beautiful.
Rest in Peace
Alan Rickman may have passed on to the afterlife, but he’s left us with an incredible treasure. His performances are all fantastic and memorable in their own right, but Truly Madly Deeply shows us a side of him not usually seen in his other films. He’s so understated and disarming as a ghost named Jamie. You come to love him, just as Nina does. He can be silly and opinionated at times, but in the end all he wanted was to help the one he loved get past his death.
May we all take comfort that a good man and a great actor has taken his talents to a heavenly audience.
This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.
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