Director: Peter Howitt
Producer: Philippa Braithwaite, William Horberg,
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.
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.
- How did Helen first think negatively of
- How, do you think, was she able to let go of self-doubts?
- Imagine yourself as Helen when she let go of her negative
- 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?