Friday, April 1, 2011

Strangers in Good Company

I just watched one of the best movies I've ever seen:  Strangers in Good Company.  It's a Canadian movie, made in 1990.  Seven elder Canadian women and their younger bus driver are stranded in a remote area near Quebec when their bus breaks down.  The movie is almost a documentary in its honesty and naturalness.  I've never seen a movie like it.

Apparently, the makers of the movie outlined the story in broad strokes and then hired the women who would participate in the fictional story.  The women, however, play themselves.  There don't appear to be any lines or any specific direction.  The characters just live on the screen for almost 2 hours, showing us how they each separately and all together might react to being stranded for several days.

There is a nun, a lesbian/feminist, a Mohawk woman, and several other beautiful characters who deal with the challenges of being stranded.  Each of the women eventually tells the other women - and us - about themselves and their lives, their loves, their hates, and their happiness.  The women are by and large very different from one another, but each of them is respectful of the others.  They form a community of friends that I envied.  Nothing was taboo.  Every question could be asked, but not every question had to be answered.  They cared for one another, fed one another, and, all in all, had a ball in that ugly old house by the beautiful lake in Canada.

These elder women seemed to take everything in their stride.  Their were no recriminations, no bitchiness.  Although there was one woman who may have been a diva under other circumstances, she was gentled into her humanity by her fellow strandees.  The women take this experience as it comes, enjoying those parts of it that are enjoyable and stoically enduring those parts that aren't.  Is this the way it really would have happened had these same women been stranded for real?  I have no idea.  I enjoyed believing, though, that the women were as noble as they seemed to be in this story.

I kept thinking what a different movie it might have been if men, or a group of young women, were the characters in the story.  The sturm und drang of it all!  I can picture the men arguing over who would best be able to repair the broken-down bus, over who would be the most successful hunter and fisherman.  I can picture younger women worried about their families, their jobs, their lives.  I can picture both the men and the younger women so engaged in their worrying and fretting that the beauty of the experience passed them by.

I do believe that age mellows.  It has mellowed me, I know for a fact.  When I saw how the women reacted to their hardship, I believed that their grace under pressure could be real because I have seen it in other older people I have known.

This movie is a tribute to women everywhere who have made it into their 60's, 70's, and 80's.,  The movie says clearly (to me anyway) that life is like the machine that makes gemstones smooth and shiny.   The contraption goes endlessly round and round, rubbing the gemstone against other rocks until the gemstone is bright and shiny and beautiful.  That's what life does to the lucky and open among us.

The women in this movie show how beautiful it is to be old.

If you are looking for a great movie, watch Strangers in Good Company.  Please!  It's available on Netflix on DVD and streaming.

This is NOT an April Fool post!

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