Although the 2013 Academy Awards are history, one gem – Amour – will continue to shine. This heartbreaking and unflinching movie was painful to watch but it stimulated conversations with more questions than answers.
As the people we love decline, how do we deal with the inevitable suffering?
Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke tackled this subject and won the 2013 Academy Award for best foreign language film. The leads, veteran French actors Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva, play a vital Parisian couple in their 80s whose happy marriage gradually unravels.
A retired music teacher and her devoted husband of sixty years struggle with the debilitating impact of a stroke on her health and quality of life. As Georges cares for the increasingly incapacitated Anne, their life together is irrevocably changed.
Ultimately they are both in an emotional prison. With memories of his lonely childhood, emotionally barricaded from their daughter and increasingly frustrated, Georges makes a horrifying decision to free Anne from her agony. In the end, doomed, he has no choice but to follow.
You may be thinking, come on – it’s just a movie. But if a loved one is in crisis and you’re trying to act as if everything is OK, here are some ideas that may help:
Be honest with yourself. Examine your state of mind. If you feel like withdrawing or hold backing, what are you hiding? And if you have frustration, resentment or despair, try to talk about it and clear the air.
Seek the support you need. Admit you can’t do it alone. When stressed, ask for help from family members you respect and trust. Take a break and spend time with friends who understand what you’re going through.
Be congruent. Notice when you feel one way and act another. Work on synchronicity and make your emotions align with what you do. If you deny your feelings, you may tend to disconnect from yourself and isolate from others.
If you haven’t already seen Amour, I suggest you do – with someone you care about and with whom you can have a frank discussion. We’re all aging and facing challenges in our families. And it can be hard to remain optimistic when the situation looks bleak. Of course we want to hold ourselves to a higher standard, but sometimes that may not be possible. Beginning a dialogue and continuing to talk about what’s going on may help save a life.