I’m a little late with this tribute. My husband has been berating me that I have written nothing about Anthony Minghella, or the superb writer that he was, since the news of his death a week and a half ago. He showed me Mark Harris’ memoriam of Minghella in Entertainment Weekly, the tribute I should have written on WordHappy. And I’m hard pressed to know why I’ve written nothing as well. Perhaps it’s because I don’t want to accept the reality. Minghella was such an immensely talented person; as fine a director as he was, one of the reasons is because he was first and foremost a writer.
If you look at his filmography, it’s jarring to see how few films are there. At least in my mind, he was so prominent a director that I expected to see more than eight films. Maybe he seemed so prominent a director because of those eight films (one of which, The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, has not yet been released), there was not a dog in the bunch. His writer’s resume is longer than his director’s because he got his start writing for television, primarily in a British family series called “Grange Hill” (which I never saw), and as a writer for Jim Henson’s The Storyteller series (which I did see, and which was magnificent).
While Minghella won his well-deserved Oscar for directing The English Patient and was also nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay for that movie as well as for Cold Mountain, it is for his first film, Truly, Madly, Deeply (1990) — which was his original creation and his directorial debut — that I admire him the most. Truly, Madly, Deeply is a gorgeous, moving film that had me bawling on the first viewing and still moves me to tears each time I watch it. It is absolutely one of my favorite films ever (as well as the origination of my deep crush on Alan Rickman). The movie begins with Nina (Juliet Stevenson), who is grieving the loss of her love, Jamie (Alan Rickman). When he reappears to her as a ghost, her joy is tempered with the growing realization that her life must move on, whether she wants it to or not. But threaded throughout the film, and what saves it from being too sentimental or maudlin, is a wry humor that undercuts the sadness.
Some of my favorite lines:
Nina (to Jamie): You’re dead and you’re still into party politics?
Jamie (on his coming back): …But, the pain. Your pain. I couldn’t bear that. There’s a little girl I see from time to time – Alice, who’s three. Well, three and a half. Oh, she’s great. Everyone loves her, but she’s not spoiled – Well, wasn’t spoiled. She was knocked over and she died. Her parents, and family, and friends from kindergarten… She used to go to this playground. See, they made an area in the park. Gave ’em money for swings, and little wooden animals, and there are these plaques on the sides of the swing, bottom of the horse: ‘From Alice’s mom and dad. In Memory of Alice, who used to play here’. And of course, Alice goes back there all the time. And when you see the parents take their child from the swing, and see the sign… They hold on to their son and daughter, so tightly, clinging on for dear life. And yet… The capacity that people have to love… Where does it go?
Goodbye and Godspeed, Anthony Minghella. You will be missed.