Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious
or boastful or arrogant 5or rude. It does not insist
on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it
does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in t
he truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes
all things, endures all things.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Director David Frankel’s film stars Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones as the long-married Kay and Arnold, with Steve Carrell in a supporting role as a marriage counselor. Need I say more? Well, I will anyway, because this film includes some of the most realistic counseling scenes that I have seen. And it is aimed not at a 12 year-old (mentally) or even a young adult audience, but at a mature one that has survived the joys and sorrows of long years of living with a mate. (Well, okay, there are also lots of seniors in the audience who gave up and sought divorces.)
When Kay tries to re-ignite the fire of romance in her 31 year-old mariage, husband Arnold tries to ignore her by reading or watching the Golf Channel. Determined to change the status quo, Kay insists that they travel from their Midwestern home to Hope Springs Maine where Dr. Feld, a famous marriage counselor whose book she has read resides. Thus begins a spiritual journey as well, one that Arnold begins with loud and cynical complaining. The joy in watching this film is to behold two great thespians totally immersed in their roles. As they learn lessons in rekindling and sharing love, so do we. Neither the troubled couple nor their counselor seems to be religious, but the issues they are wrestling with are spiritual, as well as psychological and social—valuing the feelings of the other person as much as one’s own; putting one’s own desires aside at times for the sake of the other; sharing with one another their thoughts and feelings. This is a good film for a group of adults approaching middle or old age to view and discuss, though be forewarned that there is some fank talk about sex and some coarse language.
For reflection/Discussion 1. How have the relations between Kay and Arnold gone on auto-pilot? What might have Kay done to fulfill her sexual needs—something that is depicted in so many other films about a troubled marriage?
2. How is her determination just what is needed to force the issue? Why do you think Arnold finally gives in and accompanies her?
3. What barriers does Arnold raise in the early sessions with Dr. Feld. How does the counselor display extreme self-control and show that he is comfortable in his own skin? (Note that insecure counselors might see a failure in the process to reconcile the couple as their own, rather than that of one of the clients.)
4. How does Dr. Feld treat Kay and Arnold as adults responsible for their own lives, rather than trying to manipulate them?
5. What do you think of Kay’s words during a session: “He is everything. But I’m… I’m really lonely. And to be with someone, when you’re not really with him can… it’s… I think I might be less lonely… alone. “