Can a made-for-tv movie about a broken marriage have polyamorous content in it? Joreth reviews this Judith Light film to see if there is any polyamory in a low-budget, '80s flick.
The Netflix summary reads:
"Judith Light stars in this sexy made-for-TV drama about a married woman who discovers that her husband of 23 years has been unfaithful. Just as she finds passionate love in another man's arms and prepares to divorce her husband, he suddenly has a stroke and becomes physically incapacitated. Will she move back in with her husband and take care of him ... even though she may risk losing her new lover?"
When a movie arrives in my mailbox, I don't always remember if I put it in my queue because it was on a poly list somewhere or because Netflix recommended it to me as "similar" to the poly movies I just added to my queue. Judging by the summary, I assumed this was one of the latter types of "poly" movies. I sat down with this movie with the lowest of expectations, prepared to hate it for yet another cheating drama that would probably end with some kind of choice being made, and possibly even a choice I would think was toxic or foolish.
I couldn't have been more wrong. And I love it when I'm wrong about things like this.
First of all, the Netflix summary gets the order of events wrong, which is partially why I had such low expectations. Lisa is married to Eric, a charismatic, charming film maker who hasn't made a film in 7 years and spends his time gambling with the money he steals from his wife and fucking his secretary. We are introduced to this plot by meeting a loan shark's thug who has come to intimidate Lisa at work in the very first scene. Eric is the kind of guy I loathe - an idealistic dreamer who has absolutely no connection to reality and thinks his charm entitles him to break the rules and treat everyone around him like shit.
But he's charming, and a lot of women find themselves in love with charming users like this. And once you're in love, it becomes all too easy to overlook, to excuse, and to rationalize, until you are trapped - held hostage by your own emotions.
But Lisa finds her spine and prepares to leave now that both of her children are out of the house and in college. Except that the day she actually gets the courage to leave, she gets a call from her daughter saying that her husband has had a stroke. So Lisa returns home to care for her husband.
What I really like about how the writer treated this situation is that he made no secret of the resentment that Lisa feels at being trapped again, by her love and her responsibility to Eric. She moves back home to care for him, but she is also excrutiatingly honest when she tells him that their marriage is over and she is only there because her conscience won't let her abandon a dying man who is also the father of her children. I found this to be a bold, courageous choice in storytelling because it is not socially acceptable to be "mean" to someone who is sick and/or dying. Being struck with a crippling illness doesn't erase that person's past as a jerk, and it doesn't necessarily change them, automatically, into a nice person either. It might be inconvenient timing, but leaving someone or disliking someone who has had a near-fatal incident doesn't necessarily make that person a bad person. And that's a really bitter pill for some people to swallow.
The rest of the movie follows Lisa as she attempts to recover from the financial ruin her husband has put her into with his gambling while now being financially responsible for his medical care, and two people with a painful history learning to live together with a debilitating and life-threatening illness.
Now for the poly stuff.
Enter Art, the mechanic who takes pity on Lisa when her car breaks down and she tries to work out a payment plan because she can't afford to pay the bill. Art starts doing stuff around the house for her to make her life a little easier. And in the process, he falls in love.
I won't give away the ending or the details, but what transpires is a very touching story of a woman who learns to fall back in love with her husband while discovering love with someone new. And, even more touching is the story of a man who loves his wife but who is ultimately selfish and is then forced to re-evaluate his priorities and deal with the fact that she loves another man. This is also the very touching story of a man who falls in love with a married woman, who shows us what true love is - the desire to see another person happy and to facilitate that happiness, whatever it means. If she still loves her husband, then her husband must be kept around and must be honored as the man she loves.
I think this is a good example of the kinds of situations that people can relate to - a bridge between the poly and mono worlds. It's not really a poly analogue because she flat out says that she is in love with two men. We see the tension between the metamours, we see the disapproval of the children and the neighbors, we see the resentment of being held back, and the loving amazement when poly works well. It's just a story told within the framework of a situation that non-polys might be able to sympathize with ... a setup that puts a monogamous person in a very difficult position where things are no longer black and white.
What do you do when your husband & father of your children is an asshole but you still love him? What do you do when you are trapped in a marriage that is over but love finds your doorstep anyway? What do you do when you are financially strapped and alone and someone offers no-strings-attached help simply because he thinks you could use it? What do you do when you fall in love with someone you are not supposed to love?
This was one of those poly-ish type movies - a situation that lives on the fuzzy borders of what is and is not polyamory. But the tone of the movie, the scenes between the metamours, the complexity of emotion, the selfless version of love, all make me feel that this movie fits quite squarely into the polyamory category in spite of any debate over which configurations really "count".
I recommend this movie, both for the poly-ish movie list and to watch.