Do you long for deeper conversations with your spouse? Do you see patterns in your relationship but have a hard time articulating them? In this three part series “Date Night Movies”, Laura and Vincent discuss good romantic movies that have strong relationship themes.
The goal is that your spouse and you watch these movies together and afterwards it spawns discussions about your own relationship. At the bottom of these notes are the questions for discussion.
In this first episode, our two movies are The Long Hot Summer and Sense & Sensibility.
The Long Hot Summer
Mysterious newcomer Ben Quick (Paul Newman) wants to earn the respect of the insufferable town monopolist Will Varner (Orson Welles). Ben’s family’s reputation as “barn burners” follows him and complicates his new employment with Will along with his affections towards Will’s daughter Clara (Joanne Woodward.)
Ben tries to rise above his past and being connected to the Varners can make it happen. Does love triumph over family history? Watch and find out!
Sense & Sensibility
Can a relationship make it on love alone in early 19th century England? In this movie we find Elinor Dashwood (Emma Thompson) forced to find a way for her aged mother and her two younger sisters to survive after the death of her father. Because of old English law, she stands to inherit none of his estate, while her greedy brother and his wife do. This uproots Elinor, her mother, and two younger sisters, forcing them to move from a comfortable life to a much more impoverished one.
Along the way, Elinor falls in love with Edward (Hugh Grant) who chooses a simplistic, rural life. Meanwhile, her sister Marianne (Kate Winslet) is drawn towards shallow, yet dashing Willoughby (Greg Wise); ignoring the steadfast pursuit of faithful Colonel Brandon (Alan Rickman).
Who do the Dashwood women choose? Do they choose love or stability? Don’t miss this wonderful film!
Major Themes In Long, Hot Summer & Sense and Sensibility
Both films hinge on very specific cultural precepts. Long, Hot Summer, a movie based on the works of William Faulkner, is set in Mississippi in the 1950s. It focuses on the wealthy Varner family.
Will Varner has worked hard for his wealth. Ben Quick comes from a poorer and even criminal family. Ben wants to impress Will Varner who basically owns the town with his strong work ethic. He wants to live beyond his label of coming from a “bad family.”
The Sense and Sensibility movie is based on the book of the same name by Jane Austen. As with her other works, Austen encourages the reader to consider what women faced in the nineteenth century—namely having love and/or being able to survive in a paternalistic society.
The women feel defined by their status in society. The Dashwood women long for love, and for Marianne it’s romantic and sweeping, but for Elinor the oldest sister the burden of making sure the other women in the family are cared for weighs heavily in her decisions as to love.
The Varners in Long, Hot Summer have some tricky love lives! Will, a widower, has someone interested in him, but he’s so distracted by his work and family that he has shelved his feelings for Minnie (Angela Lansbury).
Will’s son, Jody is incompetent and hardly the kind of son he wants to pass along his legacy. He is head-over-heals in love with his carefree wife Eula (Lee Remick). She is attractive and more interested in playing and flouncing about in her posh digs.
Will’s daughter, Clara, has more altruistic pursuits as a teacher. She has been in a ho-hum six year relationship with Alan, a sickly mama’s boy. When Ben Quick attempts to catch her eye, he has to earn her respect.
In Sense and Sensibility we see how Elinor tempers her decisions on love based on how her family can survive. Marianne, on the other hand, finds passion and love to be her main guides, which drives her to more impulsive decisions.
Long, Hot Summer has strong family dynamics. Will Varner is bigger than life, and his family, all grown adults live under his shadow. His is a story of a man with a strong business ethic whose children choose a different path and lifestyle. His son, Jody, has been enabled to have a carefree lifestyle that suits his almost gold-digger type wife just fine. Will Varner has a mess on his hands if he plans on passing his family legacy down to Jody.
Enter Ben Quick, a man with negative reputation, who is trying to earn good graces to become a part of the business and a part of the family. Clara has to decide whether to make the “safe” choice with boring, weak Alan who has her family’s approval, or Ben who is scrappy and comes with baggage.
In Sense and Sensibility, the first scene opener introduces us to the conflict in the Dashwood family. The death of Mr. Dashwood cuts off the female Dashwoods from their livelihoods. Rising above their circumstances, the female Dashwoods have to navigate a tenuous relationship with the eldest surviving male Dashwood, while trying to fend for themselves.
To complicate matters, Elinor falls in love with her sister-in-law’s brother. Although her sister-in-law is difficult and miserly, her brother Edward has simple and noble intentions.
Both families in these movies have to come to terms with the love interests that come into the lives of the adult children, with interesting results. How did your family accept your relationship with your significant other?
After you and your significant other watch the movie together, ask each other these questions:
Which relationship do you identify with most? How?
What’s been the theme/s in your relationships?
What do you think will happen to the couples after the movie?
What did each individual need to do to make the relationship work?