After watching the film, Love Liza with the incredibly talented Philip Seymour Hoffman, I wondered what it was about this story that kept me engaged. It was depressing. And yet, the film won the Waldo Salt screenwriting award at the Sundance Film Festival in 2002. It’s about a man who becomes incredibly lost and disturbed following the death of his wife. What is it about this type of tragedy that keeps me and you glued to the screen?
Are we hooked on tragedy because there but for the grace of God go I? Is this what compels us to keep watching? Or have we all had some brush with tragedy, so much so, that we understand the depth of another man or woman’s despair? Or do we watch someone self-destruct because we don’t understand and want to?
As a therapist for over 25 years, I saw many depressed people. People like the character that Philip Seymour Hoffman played. Some depressions were once thought to have arisen from some genetic predisposition. In other words, some people were thought to have the genes that made it harder for them to enjoy life. They had to work hard to keep themselves from going over the edge. Today, the medical profession doesn’t completely rule out genetics but focuses more on the triggers in life that get people down. Like the one in the Love Liza story, where a wife’s death sends her husband into depths so dark he can’t escape.
Depression is dark; it’s anger, sorrow, frustration, and guilt all wrapped up in an ugly package. Maybe we read and watch these stories to wake ourselves up. To remind ourselves to smile, laugh, and play. To make the choices that gladden our hearts rather than darken them. To keep on the light side, even when we stumble into tragedy ourselves. Laughter and tears are often intertwined. Here’s wishing you much laughter.
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