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The Crossroad of Imagination and Reality: Ruby Sparks Review

This is the true and impossible story of my very great love: Ruby Sparks. You may see this and think it’s magic. But falling in love, is an act of magic.

—-Calvin Weir-Fields from the film, Ruby Sparks

Ruby Sparks. When fiction meets reality.

At age twenty-four, I figured out one bad thing: nothing seems to make you really enthusiastic anymore. It seems that you have heard, read or seen every story whether fictional or not.  It’s probably the worst part of growing up when everything you perceive with your senses is something hackneyed to you. That state of ennui is inevitable and perhaps one of the unwritten burdens God gave to mankind when He banished us from paradise with the original sin. Life was suddenly tedious and uninspiring. For months, I’ve felt that. But thank God for Ruby Sparks!

The story was about a famous writer, Calvin, who had a very bad case of writer’s block. Aside from his brother, Harry, who hangs with him every other day or so, he is also friendless. His day usually starts with walking his dog, Scotty, and ends up with practically nothing to do. He asked for help from his therapist, Dr. Rosenthal, who gave him an assignment to write at least a page about a person who would probably like his dog, Scotty. That night, he dreamt of a woman who he met because of Scotty. The next thing in the morning, he was sitting in front of his typewriter, writing everything about her. He named him Ruby Sparks. Suddenly, his day would go on with half of it dreaming about Ruby and the waking up writing everything about their conversations, the things they do together, her smile, and her laughter—everything about her. He made her a painter, probably so their love for art would collide beautifully.  Soon, he confessed to his brother that he thinks he is in love with the character he created in his mind.

Of course, even Calvin thinks that he is crazy falling in love with the character he created. But one day, he woke up seeing the Ruby he created whipping something for him in his kitchen. He ran away from her, believing that he is just an image from his mind. Later, he found out that she truly exists in this world. Although she is a manifestation of his mind, she is living and breathing among us. Nonetheless, Calvin discovered that being a character he created, he could easily modify everything about her by writing attributes about her. For example, he could make her a fluent French speaker just by typing those words in his typewriter. Their days were filled with pleasure and love at first but although she could easily be controlled by Calvin, Ruby is also a real person who could get upset and bored. She eventually asked for space and this act of hers brought too many complications on their relationship. He made her really missing him, and she turned out to be very needy and dependent to him but she wasn’t happy. He wrote that Ruby is effervescently happy but it seems she only acted with forced joy. Near the end of the film, he revealed to Ruby that he could control her in his own will because he only wrote about her and demonstrated it to her. But whatever he made her do, he saw nothing but anger, disgust and revulsion in her eyes. After he stopped typing, the very tired Ruby went out of the room. Disappointed with what happened between them, he typed that he is finally setting him free.

I will no longer spoil you anymore with what happened with the story in the end and everything that happened in between. I would really recommend this film to everyone because it is creative, rich, innovative and a beautiful love story. It is not light-hearted but it is profound as it is depicting the complexities of men’s desire, possessiveness, self-loath and affection.  If it teaches us something, it is to let go the people who means a lot to us and to understand that when we love somebody, we love them because they are who they are and not because of the person we expect them to be. They can’t be subordinate to us nor be controlled by us. By controlling them and we hinder their growth and their freedom and without freedom, one cannot be truly happy.

“In the luckiest, happiest state the words come through you, not from you. She came to me wholly herself, I was just lucky enough to be there to catch her.” —Calvin Weir-Fields

I tell you now, you MUST see this movie. It was well-acted by real-life couple, Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan. Zoe Kazan is extra amazing because she didn’t only act poignantly in this film; she even WROTE it, so consummately and intelligently wrote it. The cinematography is breath-taking. The overall impression for me is I am watching an enthralling poetry in the big screen. This is the type of film that would leave that lingering feeling for quite some time and the best part is inspire you to write your own story.

What are you going to write today? Take some precaution because who knows when they will walk in to your real life.

Kramer vs. Kramer: Battle of Choosing What You Want vs. Knowing What is Right

My wife used to always say to me why can’t a woman have the same ambitions as a man, I think you’re right and maybe I learned that much. But by the same token what law is it that says a woman is a better parent simply by virtue of her sex? You know a lot of times, think about it. What is it that makes somebody a good parent? You know, it has to do with constancy, it has to with patience, It has to do with listening to them. It has to do with pretending to listen to them when you can’t even listen any more. And it has to do with love, like she was saying. And I don’t know where it is written that says a woman has a corner on that market. That a man has any less of those emotions than a woman does? “

—Ted Kramer, Kramer vs. Kramer

Because of my father’s directive, I watched Kramer vs. Kramer this lazy holiday afternoon. He recommended that film after one breakfast morning at my cousins’ coffee shop, The Freedom of Espresso, while my siblings and I are having our favorite French toasts. I had a copy the film obtained the next day but since I was so busy in school, I did not have time to watch it. Thank God for making Andres Bonifacio’s birthday today.

The film focuses on a couple, Ted and Joanna, and their son, Billy. They were married for eight years until all of the sudden, Joanna bid Ted goodbye. She told her how unhappy she was with the marriage and she’s leaving Billy under his care. Ted had an exceptionally hard time dealing with the abrupt leaving of his wife especially now that his most awaited break is already on his reach. However, Ted found out that more than the difficulty of his job is the difficulty of being a single parent to his son. There are several things that he cannot do for Billy like whipping up his favorite French toast. But eventually the father and son overcame their differences and the two became extremely close. Ted, however, lost focus on his work. That’s the price he paid for making his son a priority over everything else.

Eighteen months later, he received a call from Joanna asking him to meet her. She did not want for her to return as his wife but she did come back to be Billy’s mommy again. And thus the ugly custody court battle began.

I do not want to give many details in the story or who would win in the end. It’s best if one watches the film himself and be the judge on who really deserves Billy’s custody. It’s interesting to know that both Ted and Joanna have their own fault. Ted, on his want to give his family a better life, worked himself to death to have that position in the advertising company. However, in doing so, he forgot to be a husband and a father for five years. On the other hand, Joanna tried to keep up with the life of being a housewife and a mother faithfully all those years. Nevertheless, she felt as if she is the saddest woman in the world because she felt no personal growth in doing those jobs that’s why she decided to abandon both her husband and son for eighteen month. This is something that the court would frown on because it appears that she is not fit to be a mother to Billy anymore.

The plot of the story may be simple yet more than the tear jerking scenes between Billy and his parents; it introduced the modernization of family roles that a mother and father should take. I believe that a husband cannot just confine his wife at home and doing all the chores and counting all responsibilities in raising their children. He is also capable of doing that. A wife also remembers that she is a woman before becoming his spouse. Therefore, she also has personal aspirations that she wants to accomplish other than family life. She wants to be a career woman too. Unfortunately (most especially here on Asia), even after thirty-two years since the release of this film, many husbands still wants to work solely as the breadwinner and let their wives quit their job to be a full-time wife and mother. People also frown down on men raising children on their own. It is perceived that men doing this job will make one lose his “manliness” or whatever society calls that. The movie’s objective is simple: it is to show the viewers that there is no exact and exclusive husband’s role or wife’s role in family relationships. Both must make way for the growth of the family without compromising the dreams and ambitions of another.

Nonetheless, if I would make some amendments in the movie, I would love to bring Billy to the court and make him choose who between Ted and Joanna. Making a child choose would be very heartbreaking, especially to the un-chosen parent. However, what if he didn’t want to choose? What if Billy answered that he wanted to be with both of them and return to their family of three that they had for years. I think the fault of the movie lies on the issue that they did not tackle and that is whether Ted and Joanna could work out their marriage again. I mean, they now understood where their problem is coming from. In the process of the custody battle, they had the chance of speaking in front of the court and each other what made them unhappy or dissatisfied with their marriage. Now that you know the problem, wouldn’t it be easier to talk over the solution? The story did not state what ground did they use in severing their marriage but I hypothesize that it is “irreconcilable differences” as there are no other grounds that I see fitting for their marriage. I do not understand why something is irreconcilable if they did not put effort to reconcile it. The movie would have ended happier had the movie shown that Ted and Joanna tried saving their marriage, which they never did.

Personally, I had issues with this movie. I now have doubts on fulfilling my dream as a litigator specialized in family court cases. I mean it breaks my heart seeing how people bid farewell to their ever after in court after swearing that they would be with each other until death do them apart. Nevertheless, the pain in the former scenario is nothing compared seeing children part with their parents who they also want to live and grow with. Defending the client’s best interest would be a piece of cake but how about the best interest of the child? Who would protect it? Someday, could I really have the heart and guts to witness those scenarios all the time?

But, whatever. You must watch the film. Dustin Hoffman who played Ted and Justin Henry were outstanding father-son tandem on this movie. However, though she have limited scenes, you must really watch out for Meryl Streep as Joanna. Without saying anything, your heart has been carried by the pure emotions of her eyes. Priceless, I tell you.

By the way, for my next assignment, Daddy wants me to watch Al Pacino’s “…and Justice for All.”

"We built a life together. We wake up and have breakfast and I take him to school and then I pick him up after school and we have dinner together and...I read him a bedtime story...I'm not always the perfect father...but I'm there. I'm there." ---Ted Kramer talks about Billy, defending himself in court. One of the dialogues that made me cry.

This Bird Had Flown: My Thoughts on 2010 Japanese film, Norwegian Wood

And when I awoke, I was alone, this bird had flown
So I lit a fire, isn’t it good, Norwegian wood.
—Norwegian Wood by the Beatles

I opened the month of August by watching the 2010 Japanese film, Norwegian Wood, based on the novel of the prolific writer, Murakami Haruki. To be candid, I never read the book that is why I have to compare it none other than what I perceived in the film.

The story revolves around Watanabe Toru (Matsuyama Ken’ichi), a student during the 1960’s. It was the era where Japan looks very much like the Japan today minus the cellular phones and other jaw dropping gadgets and ultra fast trains. Going back to the story, Toru was involved with two women, Naoko and Midori, which were interestingly, very different in character. Naoko (Kikuchi Rinko) is a quiet girl who had really low self-esteem. She was the girlfriend of Toru’s best friend Kizuki. Naoko and Kizuki had always been together since they were three years old. They were almost never apart until Kizuki, the reason was neither supplied nor implied in the story, took his own life. After Kizuki died, Toru moved to the city for college where he had a roommate who was popular with women. He introduced Toru to some women whom he knew and Toru awakened his sexual side to the same.

Shortly after that, he met Naoko again. They meet during weekends and gradually became very close because of the mutual comfort they receive from each other from the lost of Kizuki. On the 20th birthday of Naoko, Toru took her virginity. She disappeared the next day and eventually settled in a secluded village where some people who suffered mental anguish such as her took sanctuary. Her feelings on both past and present conflicts as one part of her forever died together with Kizuki. Toru sometimes visits Naoko but it only pained him seeing that Naoko cannot give himself fully to him. Naoko is always with another patient, Reiko, a middle-age woman, who acts like a guardian to her. Reiko sang Naoko’s favorite song, “Norwegian Wood” by the Beatles. Obviously, that was the film namesake.

Back on the university, Toru became close with Midori (Mizuhara Kiko) who was the exact opposite of Naoko. She was vibrant, self-confident and unable to contain herself from saying what is going on her mind. She is bold enough to tell Toru her sexual fantasies over her. Although Toru admits to Midori that he is in love with someone else [Naoko] and that Midori has a boyfriend in her hometown, this did not prevent both from falling in love with each other.  That further complicated the emotions of Toru. Toru decided to go the village where Naoko was but bid Midori goodbye first and expressed his feelings before he left. Midori admitted that she now broke up with her boyfriend. She also told him that he would wait for him until he comes back, embracing and thinking only of her.

When Toru and Naoko saw each other one winter day, he immediately told her about his plans on leaving his boarding house and rent an apartment. He asked Naoko to come with him, however, the latter did not give a direct answer but promised that she would think about it. Toru went back alone and tried looking for Midori but she was already avoiding her calls and even telling him outright that she does not want to talk to him. A few days later, the worst news arrived to Toru as Naoko hanged herself. Her death impacted his life greatly and he went somewhere very isolated to mourn for Naoko. When he returned to his apartment, he saw Reiko waiting for him outside. They comforted each other and then Reiko asked a request to Toru to sleep with her which shocked him but eventually granted her request.

The film ended with Toru phoning Midori. He was professing his love for her at the phone, even using the word “Aishiteru” which the Japanese people hardly use for saying how much they love someone because it was very emphatic. Midori was initially cold when she answered the phone but Toru’s words softened her and asked her where he was. It ends here, not knowing where Toru is and what would happen between him and Midori.

My thoughts on the story are mixed. First, let’s discuss the good parts of the film. I love Toru’s actor, Matsuyaman Kenichi, interpreted his character. Toru may look like a detached character from the world but you could feel his love and compassion to the two women. Surprisingly, his actor was L Lawliet’s actor from the infamous live-action films of Death Note. You would really see the versatility of this young actor. The other characters were picked well too, except that I was kind of annoyed with the actress of Naoko. One would hear fingernails screeched down the blackboard when she cries, or rather wails. Probably, that’s how Murakami-san wrote it but it really got into my nerves. Lastly, you would really commend how good the background music made for this film. It was made very powerfully and emotionally that it really captures your heart and empathize with twisted and melancholic emotions of the characters.

Personally, the bad parts of the plot is why they focus how sex was used to be determinative the feelings of the characters. Like for example, when Toru and Naoko first spent the night together, that’s the only point where in they realized that they actually have this existing love each other. Second example was, it was only after Toru and Reiko had sex where both characters fathomed who really matters in their life. For Reiko, it was her husband and child whist for Toru, it was Midori. I thought that it was rather odd making sex as ascertaining love. It is not debatable that love is different from sex. Sex may be a part of love but definitely not its determinative factor. That concept is particularly incomprehensible especially on the part where Toru and Reiko had sex to realize what they wanted in life.

My last comment would go on who Toru truly loved between Naoko and Midori. I would have to definitely say Midori. I believe that though Toru had strong feelings for Naoko that is not purely love. In a way, he is morally obligated to protect and care for Naoko because she is her best friend’s girlfriend, childhood friend and basically, his soul mate. On the other end, Naoko may have taken her life understanding fully that she never really loved Toru and that in a way used him to get over Kizuki which she can’t move on from. Kizuki is clearly her dream, her man and her raison‘d etre. For Naoko, without Kizuki, nothing makes sense in her life, in her universe. It incised her heart even more after she realized that she kind of betrayed Kizuki’s memory by sleeping with his best friend.

In contrast, Toru loved Midori without any mental obligation or reasons. He loved her even if she suspected that she already have a boyfriend. He loved her straightforwardness and her kindness. In return, Midori truly loved him too. She broke off with her boyfriend and swore to wait for Toru to come back to her and embrace and love only her without any assurance that it was what Toru would do. The ending too, was a hint that they would eventually be together now that Naoko is gone, Midori’s boyfriend is gone and that Toru is now sure of his feelings to Midori, that in this world, nothing else matters to him but her.

Naturally, I won’t be surprised if you, my darling reader, would rebut my statements and observations above because of the several interpretations we perceive from the dynamism and fullness of the characters made in the movie. Moreover, the open-endedness even opened more questions on the minds of the perceiver than answers. But that is the beauty of life embarked on literature—we all make and shed our own light on its obscurity.

"I guess I've been waiting so long I'm looking for perfection. That makes it tough...No, even I know better than that. I'm looking for selfishness. Like, say I tell you I want to eat strawberry shortcake. And you stop everything you're doing and run out and buy it for me. And you come back out of breath and get down on your knees and hold this strawberry shortcake out to me. And I say I don't want it anymore and throw it out the window. That's what I'm looking for."