Over Labor Day weekend I had the chance to do one of my favorite things – go to the movies. The pick for this weekend was Hope Springs. As a fan of all three main actors, Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones, and Steve Carrell, I was very much looking forward to what I thought may be a romantic comedy with a deep story line. I knew the story involved a couple struggling to bring their marriage back to life. I was ill-prepared for how well done and how realistic the movie would be.
Divorce in cinema is usually portrayed in the nature of evil stepmothers or in a complete war of the roses. Hope Springs started the story for an older couple on the precipice of divorce. When we meet Kay and Arnold they are celebrating their 31st wedding anniversary by upgrading the cable package and politely saying good night to each other before heading off to their separate bedrooms.
The story follows them as they travel to Hope Springs, Maine for an intensive week with a marriage counselor. You watch uncomfortably as the couple attempts various exercises to remember the love they once had for each other before monotony and routine took over their lives. You see them fail miserably in attempts to rekindle any semblance of intimacy.
I sat with tears streaming down my face for the majority of the movie – not only because I could relate to the story from my own heart – but because this movie reminded me of the face of my clients over the years. As a divorce lawyer I am often asked these questions: What is the main cause of divorce? Is divorce an easy out? What can people do to stay married?
In 13 years of working with divorce this is what I see: I see that divorce is scary and hard and couples suffer for several years before the decision to divorce is broached. I see that couples attempt counseling in earnest, just as reflected in the movie. I see that couples, by the time they reach my chair, have separated bedrooms, or more starkly, have separated lives. I see that communication between the couple is near non-existent.
What I appreciate about the message in Hope Springs is that it is designed to look at some critical questions: Is it ever too late to save a marriage? Is it ever too late to change a marriage? Is it ever too late to ask for what you want? The answer is “no.” All of those things are always possible. But the real issue lies in the willingness of both spouses to work toward that common goal. And when you have that, you will find that is where hope springs.