Our latest discussion on the podcast has got me thinking about the troubles of love. In fact, I’ve been dwelling on it since I re-watched a beloved film that speaks keenly about the subject, Last Night (2010). Add to that the fact that I just finished Pushing Daisies, and it’s not hard to see how such thoughts brought me to a particular form of love, the one they say it’s the purest: unrequited love.
Indeed to love someone knowing the feeling is not mutual is as selfless as it gets, but charity in the affairs of the heart seldom provides a happy ending. Though inherently sad, tales of unrequited love can be quite a beautiful thing when in the hands of a sensitive, and perceptive, author. Some focus on the pain, while others try to find something positive for the unloved swooning in the background to hold on to. But the best (and most heartbreaking) tales always drag on for years, fuelled by the hope of seeing the feeling returned.
When I think of this, three women always come to mind:
Olive Snook & The Pie Maker
from Pushing Daisies
As far as TV shows go, How I Met Your Mother takes the prize for the most unfortunate love affair (the mother better hurry up now), but the most endearing story of rejection I’ve ever seen, is the one of the ever lasting love of Olive Snook for her magical pie maker, Ned.
It’s the love that inspired me to write this Valentine’s Day post, because never have I seen a show that so completely devotes a great part of itself to a character that is not even a third of a love triangle. Olive is outside looking in, observing a strange relationship that she doesn’t fully comprehend (the girl is back from the dead, they don’t touch, what’s up with that?), whilst staying friends with both Ned and Charlotte ‘Chuck’ Charles (aka, God’s intended for the pie maker).
That said, apart from a couple of scenes, this is not a sad story. Olive is a tiny firecracker who loves life and joyfully works everyday at the Pie Hole (yes I know, this show is hilarious), always eager to solve a mystery. She’s funny, compassionate, kind, and like most victims of unrequited love, hopeful. For two seasons she keeps believing that Ned’s heart might turn around, that one day he might look at her and be overwhelmed with a passion that was always inside of him. A simple touch or a smile, the mere suggestion from his part that there’s some truth to her dreams, and she’s once again dragged into a turmoil of daydreams and love songs.
But perhaps the best part of this imagined love affair comes when she is faced with reality. There’s tears and anger towards Ned and herself, but quickly too there is the calmness of realising that, with the acceptance of the truth, comes the possibility to move on. She might love him forever at some level, but that’s okay, because now she is free to see that love as something to remember with fondness, not something that is holding her back.
Charley & George
from A Single Man
If one could still hope that Olive and Ned had something more than friendship between them, in Charley’s case there’s simply no chance, for George is playing a whole different ballgame. They’ve been friends for a long time now, supporting each other through the troubles and grievances in their personal lives. They’ve share the pain of Charley’s divorce, and the recent passing of George’s lover, Jim.
When George needs her, she’s there, but Charlie’s fragile position has stirred some deep feelings towards him. Feelings she knows can never be returned, even though she still dreams and hopes of a life with George. Maybe these come from a moment of loneliness and confusion, perpetuated by the eccentric mind and self-centred world in which she lives in. But they are there, and in a key scene she decides to act on them, as if unaware of their utopian nature. It’s a sad tale, but there can be great beauty in sadness and fragility, and Julianne Moore embraces it to perfection.
Fiona & Charles
from Four Weddings and a Funeral
Lastly, we have Fiona. An old friend of Charles, who not only has been in love with him for years, but also has to go through the pain of watching him fall in love and marry someone else, not even suspecting the feelings she has for him. Perhaps she hid them too well, sensing that he didn’t feel the same, but that doesn’t diminish the suffering; in fact, like a silent cry, it only increases it.
I’ve always loved Kristin Scott Thomas’s performance here, for being so subtle and nuanced. I find myself rooting for her, begging Charles to see her, really see her. But just like she can’t just stop loving him, he can’t simply start loving her. And that’s the sad truth to every tale of the sort. When it comes to unrequited love, which tales come to your mind?