Fast forward a few years and one holiday the greenhouse wanted some teenagers to come help out with the rush. Entry me. I worked there all through high school and my first three years of college. One of owners was a crusty old man that a lot of workers were afraid of and they didn’t stay around. Not me. He liked my work ethic and I liked the challenge of keeping up with his barking orders. It was like a game to me and with my interest in art, I was good at the game we were “playing” which at that time was dressing holiday plants and making planters that were shipped out by the hundreds to places in five states. And in between wholesale orders, I was a ‘runner’ for the floral designers in the retail division. Thus when I dropped out of college at the end of my third year of college and needed a full time job I didn’t have to look hard to get an offer. And that is how I ended up spending two summers at floral design school, the second year for advanced wedding design.
I had all this on my mind when I sat down in the movie theater. I hadn’t read any of the reviews of the film we were seeing so I had no idea what The Railway Man would be about. It started out with a chance meeting on a train of a couple and when the lead character, Eric, asked Pattie: “Are you romantic?” I thought, Ohmygod, it’s a sign! I really DO need to write about this question! I was thinking the movie was going to be a romantic comedy. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
For the next 116 minutes I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. The film is about a true story of prisoners of WWII who were tortured in a Japanese labor camp while building the notorious Thai/Burma Railroad. Eric had been traumatized and shut down emotionally for years because of his experiences and the story was told through a series of flashbacks after he and Pattie were married. She was determined to help him put his demons to rest and when the news came that his veteran’s group had tracked down the prison’s camp interpreter---who the prisoners hated and blamed the most for their torture---Pattie encouraged Eric to go confront his tormentor. The guy was a guide at the former work camp that had since been turned into a museum. So Eric packed a knife fully intending to kill the guy and extract vengeance but instead---spoiler alert---they ended up becoming good friends. It’s a true story about the power of forgiveness, but in a way it’s also a love story about a woman who believed so much in the goodness of the man she married that she was willing to do whatever was necessary to help him make peace with his horrible past, and a story about a man who loved a woman so much that he was willing to finally put his past behind him to hold on to her. But the "love story" part of the film only took up about 6 of 116 minutes so don't go expecting much romance on the screen. It won't be there.
Needless to say, I liked the movie. I like films that make you think and that are based on actual events. The atrocities of war are hard to watch but I feel strongly that we need to bear witness to them IF they are presented in a responsible way and not just showing violence gratuitously. I had similar feelings about watching the opening ceremony of the 911 museum this week. I didn’t like having my emotion churned up by what I was seeing, but it was important for me to stay tuned in to it---to honor those who suffered and are still suffering. And often times you can get glimpses of hope seeing ceremonies and movies of this kind and I am stuck by the resilience of human beings. That people can go through that kind of stuff and come out the other side finding that all import power of forgiveness that lets them move forward is amazing. I guess I really am a romantic because I truly believe and hope that someday the powers in charge will throw a war and no one---NO ONE on either side---will show up to fight. ©