1998: Christmas Remembered
1999: What's In A Date?
2000: Peace On Earth
2001: Dark Days
2002: The Little Things
2003: Shop Till You Drop
2005: What Are You Waiting For?
2006: Peace In Our Heart
2007: The Greatest Of These
My personal choice for the best movie of 1998 may be a surprise. It's not a story of heroism in wartime, nor of saving the world from destruction from space. "Sliding Doors" makes us aware of the profound effects on our future of seemingly meaningless random events.
Helen (Gwyneth Paltrow, in an excellent dual role) walks into the Monday morning general session of her London public relations firm, to bad news: she's fired. Her snug little world begins to unravel as she makes her way back to the subway to return home to her boyfriend. Too late: slowed for just an instant by a child on the stairs, she sees the doors slide shut and the train pull away without her.
Or does it? The film runs backwards just long enough to take Helen back up the stairs, where the child's mother pulls her out of Helen's way and Helen is able to squeeze onto the "tube" before the doors close.
Expert direction then switches our focus back and forth between the two Helens: the one who caught the train and the one who missed it. The first Helen takes a seat next to an attractive, likable young man named James, who exits the train in Helen's neighborhood. Helen arrives home early and unexpectedly, to catch her boyfriend in bed with another woman. She quite properly throws the cad out, and sets about to rebuild her own life as an independent public relations consultant. Along the way she again meets James, and romance blossoms.
Helen's life if she missed the train takes a different course: unable to find another train, she is mugged while hailing a taxi and treated in an emergency department for minor injuries. This delays her return home long enough to allow her boyfriend and his new lover to conclude their tryst. Unaware of this infidelity, Helen remains in the relationship and has to find lower paying work as a waitress to make ends meet.
The parallel universes are brought together at the end of the movie, which remarkably leaves me both sad and happy simultaneously.
"Sliding Doors" is excellent entertainment on its own merit, but for me it brought deeper implications of the "butterfly effect." Perhaps you've heard the simplification of the role of chaos in our lives: a butterfly flaps its wings in Borneo, setting off a chain of events leading to storms and floods in America.
There must have been a large flock of those butterflies influencing my history. I can imagine so many ways my life might have turned out in a different manner.
Here's my list. I'll bet you can make a list of your own.
- I hadn't browsed the classified section of the New Englad Journal of Medicine back in 1994 and found the classified advertisement that led me to pack up and move two thousand miles, to a new state and a new life?
- my friend "Theresa" hadn't introduced me to her friend Margaux? We couldn't have known we would become the closest of friends, supporting each other over the years.
- "Angela" hadn't decided to move back to Charlotte, opening the way for Theresa and Margaux to become part of my life?
- I had remained in Jackson and tried to transition in place? Or what if I had gone someplace other than Atlanta - New Orleans, for example - for my support group and therapy?
- the person who was so supportive of me, even more as a Christian than as a transsexual person - Lee Frances - hadn't lived less than five miles from my home in Jackson?
- I hadn't found the courage (I still marvel at it) to pack my bags and leave a secure, comfortable, and quite desperate life?
- in November 1991, on my way to the American Heart Association convention in Anaheim, I hadn't stopped at that bookstore on Harbor Boulevard and found that copy of Tapestry and the advertisement for Jim Bridges?
- in 1986, when I wrecked my car while in "Becky mode," I had been taken to jail and subjected to God-knows-what? or written up in the newspaper?
- I didn't have access to medical information (and, er, hormones)?
- I had followed my original impulse to pursue transition as soon as I finished medical school, rather than marry and spend years trying to fit into a role I never could play?
- I hadn't been raised in a religion which told me I was an "abomination" but could be healed if my faith was strong enough?
- Mother had caught me dressing in her clothes?
- Mother hadn't had to take that diethylstilbestrol to help concieve and carry her baby?
Isn't it interesting to speculate? But practically speaking, it's not a good idea for me or for you to indulge too much in "what if's." This is the way life turned out. There's no assurance that any alternate path would have been more pleasant.
"What if" I hadn't been transsexual - but I am. We would do well to accept reality and deal with it in the most productive way.