Blog 2230 – 11.26.2021
State of Grace
One of my favorite love stories is the 1990 crime drama staring Sean Penn, Robin Wright, and Ed Harris called “State of Grace.” It is a violent story of gangs and murder in the big city, but more than that, to me, it is a passionate tale of two star crossed lover. The chemistry between Robin and Sean so evident in the movie lead to her changing her name for awhile to Robin Wright Penn. Sean and Robin have both had several marriages and in the middle and arguably the height of both their careers they were married to one another from 1996 to 2010, the longest marriage to date for either of them.
Yesterday, thanks to the kindness of a work friend in Norfolk, Nebraska where I am on my last away from home work assignment, I had a very nice Thanksgiving dinner with him and his wife and several others at the Eagles Club in town. After the dinner I was looking at the offerings of the several streaming services I pay for, trying to find a movie that I had not yet seen that might be touching and encouraging. I came across one that peaked my interest, a 2021 offering starring Robin Wright titled simply “Land.”
It is the story of a middle aged lawyer named Ellie who loses her loving husband Adam and young son Drew in a tragic mass shooting at a concert and with their loss she also loses the desire to live. In one tearful scene she asks her sister, “Why am I here?” And her sister begs her, “Please don’t hurt yourself, please do it for me.” The scene plays in her memory often and is probably the only thing that prevents her from taking her own life. Ellie has come to hate being around people and so she purchases a cabin in the mountains of Wyoming and becomes a hermit. Before she can figure out how to fish, trap, hunt, and get vegetables to grow winter comes upon her and a bear breaks into the cabin and devours or destroys most of her food supplies. When the little food she had left finally runs out and a blizzard comes she fight the snow to bring in some wood to heat the cabin and passes out in the floor before she can restart the fire. She lays there alone and near death for the longest time.
Then there is someone there trying to help her. He starts a fire and goes to get a nurse friend to help him with her. They get her warm and give her sips of water and then broth reviving her only slightly. The nurse says to him, “She needs to be in a hospital.” Ellie says, “Please, no.” then passes out again. The nurse tells the man who found Ellie, “We should take her to the hospital against her will.” He says, “No we should honor her wishes. I will take care of her till she’s better.” The nurse again, “Miguel, you are a treasure.” Miguel like an angel watches over Ellie and guides her back to life from the brink, spoon feeding her clear soup till his nurse friend says she is able to take more. He brings in supplies for her and when she is up on her feet again she tries to give him money, but he refuses it saying that it would not be right to take money for doing right.
She asks him to leave her and not come back. He says, “Let me come by a few times more so I can teach you to fish, trap, and hunt. You will not survive here without those skills. She reluctantly agrees. During his last visit with her he tells her that his wife and child were killed in a car crash and asks if she has a family. But all she ever tells him is her first name. She begs him to promise not to tell her news of the outside world. Gradually she came to look forward to his visits.
He tells her that he has some business to take care of and asks if she will care for his dog while he is gone and she agrees. She asks, “When will you be coming back and he says, “It might be awhile.” She puts his chair outside by the campfire and watches and waits for his return. After several weeks she straps on her back pack and with his dog hikes the many miles into Quincy, the nearest town. She eats in a diner and asks, “Is there a hospital in town.” And is told by the waitress, “It is just down the road.”
With the dog on a leash she walks to the hospital, ties him to a bench outside, says “Stay”, and goes inside to find the nurse. When she does, the nurse is happy to see her, and after her shift ends takes her to see Miguel. He is bed fast and can hardly talk, tells her that he is dying of throat cancer, that they did not catch it in time. She says, “You should have told me.” He says, “You did not want any news from the outside world.”
Miguel goes on to tell Ellie that he was drunk and driving the car when his wife and child died. She finally tells him how she lost her husband and son. She thanks him for giving her back a reason to live. He says, “That is you all take, take, take.” And she says, “ And that is you all give, give, give.” He smiling says, “I hope so.” He then thanks her for helping him to die in a state of grace. Miguel tells her he wants her to have his cell phone with all the eighties songs that he sang to her. Leaving she looks back through the window as his friends perform Native American rituals over him.
In the final scene of the movie, the sun is coming up and Ellie is sitting in a swing on a playground with her backpack and dog at her feet. Cell phone in hand, she calls her sister and says, “Hello, it’s me Elle.” Her sister is thrilled to hear her voice. The screen grows black and the credits roll.
There is I believe in all of us, that God spark, the desire to live and experience all that life has to offer. Sometimes even as the mostly upbeat Apostle Paul wrote, we as he almost despair of living till the divine breath blows upon that spark and restores the fire within us.
Your friend and fellow traveler,
Official Clip from La La Land – John Legend – Start a Fire