Watched Sweet November, the movie, last night with Michelle, my wife. In it, Keanu Reeves, an advertising workaholic and Charlese Therron (Sarah) turn a chance encounter into a gripping and disclosing sequence of encounters starting with her ambition to disabuse him of his 24-7 addiction to his work, and ending with the disclosure of her terminal Hodgkins Lymphoma disease.
His "macho" resistance to her overt and blatant ambition to "re-make" his life into one of reflection, relationships and compassion, as opposed to one of grovelling for clients, cash and stardom, coincides with his "firing" from the agency for having blown a presentation to a prospective client who sells hot-dogs. The winner of the account turns out to be a transvestite friend of Sarah's who also, eventually, invites both Nelson (Reeves' character) and Sarah to dinner, dressed along with his male partner, in drag.
It seems that Sarah, having learned of her terminal illness, has decided to "turn her last months into the best job" she can find, and that focuses on intellectual and psychic make-overs for one male each month. Designed as a complete "plan" for her to implement, controlled to the last detail, including, "one month is not too long to become a relationship, and long enough for the process to work," she is religiously committed to her "rules".
Ironically, and cosmically, no one can or does control all variables in any plan, and Sarah is no exception. Falling in love with Nelson, as does he with Sarah, the plan reaches its turning point when he finds her on the floor of her apartment in San Francisco, violently opens the locked cupboard where she keeps her literally dozens of medications, and her "secret" is revealed.
It is, however, the actual parting that is most memorable. And let's leave that for your viewing.
However, made in 2001, this film excoriates the workaholic archetype, with unlimited compassion (for a month) and just as in Shadowlands, the bio-pic of C.S.Lewis, melts the psychic armour of its leading men, only to have both men, ironically and paradoxically, lose the new love of their life.
The theme of the transformed workaholic can not have too many retellings. The Canadian television journalist, Peter Trueman left his hectic anchor chair at Global TV for a more contemplative and more relationship-based life on an island in Lake Ontario with his wife. After a quarter century of a similar driven life, I too gave it up, for a return to study and a professional detour before settling with a much more modest income but much more "grounded" and life-giving, relationship-centred autumn of my days, thanks to my own "Sarah", Michelle.