I got the inspiration for this post months ago from here. I promised to followup since then, and then the meme made me remember how much I cry at movies. I can’t remember the last time I cried in real life (I’m an emotional cripple), but I’m happy to share pain vicariously with fictional characters. It would be too much to trudge through all the films I’ve seen, I’ll stick to the last decade. Today, bottom fifteen in alphabetical order. Next time, the top ten.
Each entry has the potential to be a spoiler-ish entry, if you haven’t seen it don’t read.
Atonement: Tete a tete, En Francais (Guilty Party: Romola Garai)
Avatar: Graces Dies (Guilty Party: James Cameron and Sigourney Weaver)
Call it what you will, but cold would be a dubious accusation to mete out to Avatar. The death of Grace is the most poignant. Maybe it’s because it’s Sigourney, the film’s strongest “actor”…maybe it’s just the realisation of the scope of the destruction that has occurred. Either way, her death is the film’s most moving moment (more than the burning of the tree) and a definite tearjerker.
Away From Her: “Forsaken” (Guilty Party: Julie Christie)
I’m still not certain on how I feel about Away From Her. It seems so manipulative at times, and then starkly honest at others. Either way, I like Julie Christie in it. The moment in the film that always causes me to tear up is the ending. What will happen with Fiona and Grant? Has she really regained lucidity? Alzheimer’s is just a thoroughly depressing disease throughout and Christie just makes it all the more sad.
Babel: Confession (Guilty Party:Boubker Ait El Caid)
Babel had a number of poignant moments, but the most moving came from the arc’s that’s usually most forgotten. The plot point of the two brother’s inadvertent foray into crime fails to hit home at times, but the climax makes it worth it. Boubker Ait El Caid’s confession is brilliant (for a child actor and for an adult) and yes, the words are overly precise. But it doesn’t matter. It’s too distressing for me to care.
Big Fish: The Funeral (Guilty Party: Tim Burton)
Burton gets called out for being too irreverent. Pity those detractors didn’t see Big Fish, one of the decade’s strongest films. The moment where Billy Crudup lifts his father into the water surrounded by all the “characters” we’ve met is the film’s most brilliant scene and it’s oh, so moving. It’s a tribute to parents and it goes to show that Tim Burton really can do anything, perhaps not as prolific as some, but in his own way – still excellent.
Bright Star: Crying (Guilty Party: Abbie Cornish)
It’s Abbie’s strongest moment, which is odd considering that her Fanny is built on keeping her emotions in check. We know John will die, she knows John will die and yet… It’s one of those rare bouts of crying on screen that’s realistic. Even as she says lines like “I can’t breathe” there’s no doubt that she really can’t breathe. It’s the sort of blunt sadness Jane Campion isn’t averse to showing and Abbie rises to the occasion, brilliantly. More of this.
Cold Mountain: Death (Guilty Party: Nicole Kidman)
Although I’d hardly attribute Nicole’s talents to solely being a good reactor, her brilliance in Cold Mountain (yes, brilliance) comprises her stellar ability to the more overt acting of her cast members and make her Ada Munroe work. She has already reacted to a death earlier in the film (her father), but of course it’s Inman’s death that’s the emotional juggernaut. I do think Jude Law is rather good here, but this moment is all Nicole.
Finding Neverland: The Performance (Guilty Party: Kate Winslet)
I have a soft spot for Finding Neverland and though it gets too saccharine at times I’m willing to cut it some slack, particularly in the final moments of Kate’s performance. “Peter Pan” has always been a distressing tale in its own right, and juxtaposed with the eventual death of Sylvia it only becomes more so.
Gosford Park: “Don’t cry, they’ll hear.” (Guilty Parties: Helen Mirren and Eileen Atkins)
I think, at the end of the day Gosford Park is a comedy, but that doesn’t stop Helen from eliciting a few tears. We don’t expect to get so caught up in the revelations of paternity and such, and Helen “perfect servant” Mirren’s confession doesn’t seem that emotional. Of course, she’s putting on a mask. Her stilted entry into the room, and then Eileen’s quiet line reading is just so painful (yet brilliant) to watch.
I’ve Loved You So Long: Confession (Guilty Party: Kristin Scott Thomas)
I’ve Loved You So Long is, in its way, as emotionally manipulative as many. Kristin makes me forget about that. It’s all leading up to inevitable revelation and though it’s just a trifle odd it doesn’t make it any less sad. 2008 was not as poor a film year as many think, a number of gems were just unjustly ignored.
Little Miss Sunshine: A Hug (Guilty Party: Paul Dano)
A Mighty Heart: Crying (Guilty Party: Angelina Jolie)
Hopefully this will go down as one of the forgotten gems of the last decade. Like Abbie’s moment this is important for the crying, though it’s more a scream than a cry. From the moment Marianne learns of her husband’s death we anticipate waterworks, but the way the waterworks come is so unexpected, almost as if we’re watching something we shouldn’t be privy to. Angelina is so bloody brilliant here.
Mona Lisa Smile: Bicycles (Guilty Party: Kristin Dunst)
Mystic River: Parade (Guilty Parade: Marcia Gay Harden)
I will forever tout Mystic River as Clint Eastwood’s (lone) masterpiece. Evocative, provocative and poignant. The thing is, I’m never inclined to get teary eyed through out the machination of the main three (even Sean’s bloodcurdling scream or Tim’s moving “confession”). It's as if I’m seeing it, but not feeling it…until the end. When Marcia walks frantically through the street at that dismal parade it’s as if all the drama finally reaches it’s peak and we realise how morose the lives of these people are. And Marcia does it all without uttering a single word. brilliant? I think so too.
You Can Count On Me: Ending (Guilty Parties: Laura Linney and Mark Ruffalo)
I mentioned my allegiance to this sibling pairing a few days ago. It’s the only ending that would have worked for You Can Count On Me, but it doesn’t make Terry’s departure any less sad. What’s the lesson we learned? Sometimes it’s easier to love from afar? I don’t know. Who does? The departure is real though, it works and Laura and Mark delivering brilliant performances is a significant part of that.
Have you shed a tear for any of these scenes?
(Care to wager which ten films make my top ten? Hints: a quasi stranger in a kitchen, a sexless goodbye in a bedroom, running through the streets, end credits, return of a “ghost”, death of a warrior, voiceover, revelation of truths, montage of characters, a lover’s promise, death of a star. Those are the clues…)