In which we explore the filmic concerns of a given theme, and find new and novel ways of putting together yet another Internet-based list of movies. The wrinkle here, is our fifth pick will actually serve to prove as the counter argument, the best representation of the direct opposite of our theme.
1. Adore (2013)
Director: Anne Fontaine
Gist: Two beautiful women who have been friends all their lives (Naomi Watts and Robin Wright), fall for each other’s sons (Xavier Samuel and James Frecheville) over the course of a single, tumultuous summer.
Shared Benevolence: That would be the sons Ian (Samuel) and Tom (Frecheville). Simultaneously aghast and compelled, Lil (Watts) and Roz (Wright) cross social and moral boundaries in pursuit of their hearts’ desires, hanging the potential damage it could wreck to their friendship and the world around the boys.
End Result: As you can imagine, things don’t go terribly well with this scenario. By the end, petty jealousies end up more or less blowing up everyone’s lives, and no one really gets what he/she might have wanted.
2. Jules et Jim (1962)
Director: François Truffaut
Gist: Two friends, one vivacious Frenchman, Jim (Henri Serre), and one reticent German, Jules (Oskar Werner), both fall in love with a beautiful French woman named Catherine (Jeanne Moreau) in 1912 Paris. She marries Jules, but, after the war, Jim re-enters their lives and things get a good deal more complex.
Shared Benevolence: Catherine, who loves both men in her way, and the two friends who learn how to share their love for her. If anything, Truffaut’s film can be seen as a testament to all kinds of different love: The love between friends, lovers, and spouses, all interconnected and honest, even if eventually takes on a kind of sadistic brutality that results in more than a little self-destructiveness.
End Result: The film does end with a bit of serious melancholy (we did say it was a French film, no?), but not necessarily in the manner you might suspect.
3. All of Me (1984)
Director: Carl Reiner
Gist: A high-priced lawyer (Steve Martin) inadvertently gets embroiled with a rich, dying client (Lily Tomlin) when her soul accidentally enters into his body instead of her intended volunteer, a beautiful, young woman (Victoria Tennant). The two have to co-exist in his body until they can figure out how to make things right.
Shared Benevolence: Well, there’s the whole body thing, as mentioned — she has control over the right side of him, while he still has the left — but also there’s a significant sharing of their innermost feelings. The two start as full-on adversaries (at first, she causes him to lose both his girlfriend and his job), but eventually they begin to appreciate one another.
End Result: It’s a Carl Reiner comedy, so things can’t go too far south. Things works out for them both, and our sympathies — much like their own feelings — shift comfortably toward the unlikely couple.
4. Biutiful (2010)
Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Gist: Uxbal, a clairvoyant Spaniard (Javier Bardem) with two young children and a slightly demented estranged wife (Maricel Álvarez) just returned from a psych ward, is forced to confront his own mortality when he is diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Shared Benevolence: Uxbal’s gift allows him to see into the spirit world, a skill he utilizes for extra cash (and often of his own charity) working with the grieving families of the recently departed. The conclusion he draws is that we all share this world together, either on terra firma or the spiritual plain, which makes his terrifying journey slightly less than fully tragic.
End Result: Unable to save himself, Uxbal instead insures his kids’ well-being to the best of his ability and attempts to atone for a horrible mistake in judgment he makes that causes an enormous tragedy with a group of illegal immigrants looking for work.
And the antithesis:
5. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
Director: John Huston
Gist: Fred Dobbs and Bob Curtin (Humphrey Bogart and Tim Holt), a couple of down-on-their luck American ex-patriots trying to strike it rich in Mexico, hook up with an older gold prospector named Howard (Walter Huston) and score a big haul high up in the mountains, but their mutual distrust is heightened with their prosperity until things go horribly awry.
Shared Malevolence: Dobbs, one of Bogart’s most enduring characters, has become synonymous with miserly distrust. As he grows more and more paranoid about his share of the loot, he starts looking for ways to protect his own best interest at the direct cost of the other two, going so far as to try and kill Curtin himself.
End Result: Dobbs meets a sticky end, and Curtin and Howard end up with their lives but no booty to speak of, an ironically life-affirming end to an otherwise sordid affair.