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Sliding Doors

Director: Peter Howitt
Producer: Philippa Braithwaite, William Horberg, Sydney Pollack
Screenwriter: Peter Howitt
Stars: Gwyneth Paltrow, John Hannah, John Lynch, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Zara Turner, Douglas McFerran
MPAA Rating: R
Year of Release: 1998
Released on Video: 05/01/99

Sometimes when the worst happens to us, it sets us on a better path than the one we were on — even when we have no idea there is a better alternative. Helen is unjustly fired from her glossy advertising job, then, coming home early, misses the tube, gets mugged, goes to the hospital and eventually arrives home to find her live-in writer boyfriend getting a late start on his day. And, apparently, her life is all downhill from there as she then takes on two menial jobs in order support them both while he shams finishing his novel and instead has an affair with his ex-girlfriend.
But this film shows us a parallel reality, simultaneously weaving both versions of Helen’s life together in an intricate, cross-referencing braid. Back at the subway station, Helen makes a last minute dash through the sliding doors of the train, and thus arrives home in time to catch her boyfriend in bed with his ex. Dumping the loafer and moving in with her best friend, she eventually heals her pain, starts her own PR firm and falls in love with James, a genuinely caring man. Comparing both versions of the story serves to highlight how self-esteem can re-develop even after it has faded through a serious crisis. The proverbial “hidden silver lining” is found in even the darkest, stormiest clouds.

Viewing Suggestion:

Notice how the blond-haired Helen develops the capacity to think positively about herself and to start a new life with a new career and a new boyfriend, after her old boyfriend cheated on her and she went through a phase of anger, depression, and grief.

Ask Yourself:

- How did Helen first think negatively of herself?
- How, do you think, was she able to let go of self-doubts?
- Imagine yourself as Helen when she let go of her negative beliefs.
- What distorted thoughts about yourself are dropping away as you “become” her?
- Do you believe that you will be devastated and not be able to recover if your partner/spouse and you separate?
- Or are you currently going through a breakup or a job loss?
- Can you recall a time when you have experienced a loss before and recovered from it?
- What helped you to heal again?
- Is there any reason why you would not be able to allow yourself to feel your grief, ask for support, and recover as Helen in the movie and, possibly, you did once before?