That’s Rosehill Cottage. The moment I saw it, I fell madly in love. Granted, it doesn’t actually exist. Woefully, it is only a skeleton, constructed temporarily for the film The Holiday. Despite Cameron Diaz’s painfully irritating performance (thankfully only one-fourth of an otherwise lovely ensemble cast), that movie burrowed down into my little romantic Anglophile heart on first viewing.
I’ve recently found that several of the films I feel the most inexplicable warmth for have been speaking to me profoundly. I’ve already written here about Love Actually. Tonight, I found myself deeply touched by the story of Iris, played beautifully by Kate Winslet (who, it should be said, is a spectacular woman we should all revere). Iris is a woman who has been stuck, paralyzed, frozen for years. It took a excruciating blow, the engagement of the man she loves to another woman, to send her running. In her mind, it was away, but as it turns out, she ends up running into a bright, rich life that was simply waiting for her to show up. After years of being someone’s backup plan, Iris simply cannot see herself as anything but the dull, muted placeholder that he sees. That is, until she takes a holiday and fills her life with all new characters, who instantly see with fresh eyes her incomparable kindness and quiet beauty and her untapped potential for “gumption.”
One of the best scenes, as so many of us know, is when she takes her elderly neighbor, who happens to be a legendary screenwriter from Hollywood’s golden age, out to dinner. He brutally but brilliantly points out that SHE is the “leading lady” in her own life and it’s long past time she acts the part. The other piece of her revelation comes from new friend Miles, an energetic, joyful man who doesn’t see yet he’s underappreciated in his own relationship. Sometimes it takes undervalued souls to shed light on the greatness in each other, and I love that their affection blossoms under the most innocent of terms. They simply want to build each other up and see the other learn to appreciate themselves.
What I love most about Iris’ journey is not that she ends up finding the right man or that she sends the wrong one packing, but that she finds out how much more there is to enjoy in her life that she’s been missing. By focusing on one thing she can’t have, she’s missed out on all the beauty in what she calls her “horrible life.” A charming home, a brother and nieces who love her, a lovely job, and an adorable dog – all are invisible to her. But then, in a moment of what started as self-indulgent escapism, she opened herself up to city she’d never been to and where she knew no one, and rather than shutting herself away, she reaches out and grabs on to the invigorating life in those she encounters.
The scene that resonates most powerfully with me comes late in the movie. Iris and Miles are commiserating about their failed love lives, and in attempt to comfort him, she finds herself talking her way through the change taking place within her. “You’ll go somewhere new, and you’ll meet people that make you feel worthwhile again, and little pieces of your soul will finally come back.”
And suddenly there I was, on her journey with her. It wasn’t a man, but my own painful blow sent me running after a better life, and I found exactly what Iris did. I went away, had people that demanded that they be allowed to love me just as I am, and indeed I found that pieces of my soul that had been gone so long I’d forgotten I’d ever had them came rushing back. By clinging to one thing for far too long, I’d lost sight of innumerable others that had the power to bring me joy and energy and inspiration and purpose.
So where does my story go from here? I’m not sure yet. My dear friend Katie were talking about this just last night. The first step is realizing that what you were (or are) doing isn’t working. That opens you up to the terrifying step of choosing change. But then the big question is, what then DO you want? I don’t know specifically what it will look like, but I have resolutely decided that I want to be HAPPY and I want to be of PURPOSE in the lives of others. And I believe in the journey. I believe that I am undertaking a renovation to last the rest of my life, and that it will take time and patience and courage and stamina. My responsibility is to stay raw and show up every day, and keep rewatching Iris’ story to remember what it looks like to be a leading lady.