I'm going to implement something new here at Little Nuances: Top 10 Tuesdays. For the next ten Tuesdays, I'll count down my favorite top ten movies of all-time and I'll tell you why I loved them so much. After this series, I'll probably move on to my top ten favorite books of all time. You won't agree with all of my choices and that's okay. Such lists are always subjective. Part of the fun about them though is finding out why a movie or book moved a particular person so deeply.
#10: In Love and War, starring Chris O'Donnell and Sandra Bullock. Released in 1997.
Here's a blurb about the movie from MovieWeb.com: "Caught in the crossfire of a world at war, love was the last thing on their mind. But for a Red Cross nurse and a heroic, young ambulance driver, an unlikely romance blossomed in the summer of 1918 that forever changed their lives. The film chronicles the clandestine romance between 18-year-old Ernest Hemingway and 26-year-old Agnes von Kurowsky, the medical aide who nurtured him to health following a devastating battlefield injury. Based on Kurowsky's recently discovered diaries, this extraordinary relationship inspired Hemingway to write the classic love story, A Farewell To Arms."
I love watching two people fall in love. Something about it seems so right. So natural. Especially during a war when life is seen as it truly is—temporal and fleeting. Such circumstances cause people to move quicker and be more decisive in an attempt to avoid missing what might have been.
Young Ernest wasn't about to miss his opportunity with Agnes. I think that this is Bullock's best performance. She plays Agnes is such a fashion that you ache as you watch her put distance between herself and Ernest early in the movie. She thinks he's too young and that he's going to be like so many other guys who she nurses back to health—quick to flirt, slow to really care. And she already has somebody back home who has been writing her lots of letters—she's just not sure that he's the one for her. Ernest seemed to sense that and he wouldn't go away. In fact, after he's on the mend, he directs his wheelchair toward Agnes' quarters and they have this conversation:
"Last night a bunch of us where talking about why we came here," Ernest said. "I said that I came here because I was looking for something. I'm not sure what it is, but I know I'll find it—somewhere about six miles from here in the trenches. That's where it is. It never occurred to me until now that it might be possible to come here looking to get away from something."
Agnes looks at him, smiles a little, then turns away—knowing that he's figured her out. Then she lightly says, "Touché." Then she begins to write another letter to the man back home.
Ernest sees what she's doing and says, "It's no use—him writing you, you know. Cause you're in love with me."
She keeps her gaze fixed on her letter, and after a brief laugh, she says, "I am, am I?"
"You just don't know it yet."
"Will you get out of here kid? Please," she says with soft eyes and a little smile.
Turns out he was right. Sort of.
An older doctor is also interested in her and he seems like a more practical choice. And she's not thrilled with some of Ernest's tactics in pursuing her so she turns away from him. But he eventually wins her heart—right before she gets sent to the front lines. He tracks her down the night before he is to return to the States and tells her that he'll love her forever.
After Ernest leaves, the doctor proposes to Agnes and she feels torn again. Real love versus a practical arrangement. She chooses practicality and writes Ernest a letter informing him of her decision. Everything changes for Ernest after that. He becomes a broken, bitter man who holes up in a cabin while he drinks and writes short stories.
Agnes returns to the States eight months later to tell Ernest that she made a big mistake. But she doesn't find the man she fell in love with. And even though she proclaims her love for him, his pride won't let him give her another chance. And like a fool, he watches her walk away.
Every time I watch her walk up the trail behind his cabin and out of his life, I feel like somebody punched me in the gut. I want to scream, "Get over yourself Ernie!" But he doesn't budge.
In the end, Agnes says this:
"I never saw Ernie again after Walloon Lake. I often wonder what might have happened if he had taken me in his arms, but I guess his pride meant he wasn't able to forgive me. Some say he lived with the pain of it all his life. The hurt boy became the angry man—a brilliant tough adventurer who was the most famous writer of his generation. And the kid he had been—eager, idealistic, and tender, lived on only in my heart."
I'm sure that I enjoy this movie so much because, as a single guy, I feel like I've let a few get away over the years. Sometimes I pushed too hard, sometimes I didn't do or say enough. And sometimes I didn't do anything. Finding somebody to give your heart to is not easy. And finding somebody who will do the same is even more difficult. But even when it does happen, it's not necessarily enough—as was the case with Ernest and Agnes.
This movie is a great reminder to shed all pride and to give of yourself completely when you find the "one." Because if you don't do it then, it may never happen.