Akron radio's Tim Doughtery and Sue Wilson just got engaged on air today. While we applaud the happy couple, as we applaud every couple on Valentine's Day, Valentine's Day usually is a bothersome holiday for all the single individuals out there. To add to it, it doesn't help that almost every film that plays has to do with a coupling of some kind, and the viewer instantly compares their love life( if they have one), to the fictional people's love lives.
There are many classic films to accommodate such traditionally commercial needs and make the single people out there feel guilty, and as we are culturally preconditioned to not love ourselves until we have a love from another human being, what is a single, self-hating individual going to watch with the box of chocolates and the wine bottle? A suggestion is 1942's Now, Voyager.
The film stars Bette Davis, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, Gladys Cooper, Bonita Granville, and Mary Wickes. The story starts out with Dr. Jacquith (Rains) visiting the Vale estate, where he notices the social interactions of the Vale family- that of Mrs. Henry Vale( Cooper), June Vale (Granville), and her daughter Lisa Vale (Ilka Chase), and their attitudes towards Charlotte( Davis), an older, never-married, socially awkward woman who is at her mother's beckon call. After Lisa, June, and the Mrs. insult and demean her, she lashes out and runs to her room in tears. Dr. Jacquith reams the family out and takes her off with him to therapy. We do not see the innerworkings of that therapy, but we do see the Vale estate talking about Charlotte's much needed trip away before confronting her demons with a new sense of self. She is given specific instructions by Jacquith to relax and enjoy herself, and meet new people. It is by chance that she meets Jerry Durrance( Henreid) and the two strike up a friendship. Both Jerry and Charlotte begin to feel something deeper for one another. However, Charlotte remains hesitant as she remembers when the last time she was on a boat and fell in love, only to have her mother stop her. As you can tell by now, Mrs. Henry Vale is the WASP equivalent of Mary in Precious to her daughter, and demeans her with emotional abuse at every turn. But, that isn't the only thing holding Charlotte back, its feelings of unworthiness she feels in herself, that she is not worthy of the love that someone has for her. Jerry reassures her at every turn. They both agree to stay in contact with each other after the cruise is over and they are back in America. Rejuvenated by love of self and by love from another assisting that, she goes home. Due to the delicate nature of her arrival and her character's arc, there will be no more revealing of plot.
If one could say something about this film, is that for a film made in time of rigid gender roles, the ideas of it are very progressive. It is a shame such a film only gets airplay on Turner Classic Movies, because it is one of a few films that young women do need to see, and young men too. This is the perfect film to watch today because it reminds us of an important principle- loving yourself is the first step towards accepting love from another, and that love from another does not define love for self, only amplifies its meaning. Happy Valentine's Day!