I really kind of struggled to figure out exactly what I wanted to write for Valentines Day. I didn’t want to just review a romantic movie. I do that all the time, it didn’t seem particularly special. And I couldn’t really think of a good topic for an essay.
I’m alone on Valentines Day. And I always have been. I’ve never had someone to share the day with. So, naturally, I’m a little bitter toward it. So finally, the idea popped into my head to cover an anti-romantic love story.
I do have a sort of fascination with movies about couples who, while they do love each other, treat each other horribly. And I think the best film of that type would be Look Back In Anger, starring Richard Burton. It was a pretty early film in Burton’s career, and it definitely helped to establish him as the go-to guy for moody, troubled characters.
Burton play Jimmy, a dark man with a horrible temper. He’s married to Alison, played beautifully by Mary Ure. The couple do seem to love each other, but for some reason they can’t stop themselves from completely ripping each other apart. They seem to resent each other – he resents her family’s wealth, she resents him taking her away from it. But that’s really just a part of the problem. These are two miserable people who find satisfaction – but not happiness – in destroying each other.
But still, they’re married. And this isn’t the 1800s where people get married for various reasons, even if they can’t stand each other. They got married for a reason, and we come to see that the reason really is love. They’re two people who are in love but don’t really know how to be. They just know how to hurt each other and themselves. We get a few lovely moments of the two really sharing that love with each other, but overall it’s just the never ending cycle of pain and anger.
Like so many couples, they fail to communicate with each other, and that’s one of the biggest problems. It leads to misunderstanding of each others emotions, to misunderstandings and a lack of trust.
Perhaps their problems come from the fact that they initially loved each other for what might have been the wrong reasons. When they were dating, Jimmy thought that Alison had a relaxed spirit, and he thought he needed that in his life to help him calm down. But after their marriage, he realized that it wasn’t calm that Alison had, she just suppressed her feelings, and marriage to Jimmy made it all come out.
In the end, though, I think it’s almost a hopeful movie about love. It ends on a kind of up-in-the-air note. Alison leaves Jimmy, and he takes up with her best friend Helena, played by Claire Bloom. These two have a sort of opposite relationship than Alison and Jimmy. While Alison and Jimmy had love first, that turned to anger, Helena and Jimmy hate each other and that passion turns to love (or something resembling it). But in the end, Jimmy loves Alison and Alison love Jimmy. She loses the baby she was pregnant with, and this loss makes them re-evalute their love. No matter how much pain their in, or how far apart they are, all they can think about is each other.
The loss of their child is definitely a strong point in their reunion. Jimmy tells Alison that it isn’t his first loss, and Alison tells him, “It was mine.” Perhaps Alison needed to experience a loss like that to really begin to understand Jimmy and his anger.
We’re left with Jimmy and Alison, not together, but not apart.
By Katie Richardson