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Reign Over Me — It’s Good.

April 16, 2007

Tonight my children and I went to a movie. Christie and Jack went to see “Meet The Robinsons.” Since Christie was at home and willing to go with Jack, I took advantage and went to see an “adult” film, Reign Over Me. This film had a pretty good line up of stars, Adam Sandler, Don Cheadle, Liv Tyler, Jada Pinkett Smith, Donald Sutherland…

I admit it seemed a little slow in places … but for the avid movie buff that I claim to be … that was okay because I just knew I would find some golden nugget hidden within this film. In fact, I may have found a few.

Before I get way into it, let me just say right off the bat that there is foul language in this film, and I recognize that some movie-goers will only hear those bad words. Still, for those who want to consider that these characters live in New York City (another culture altogether from Cleveland) and except for the times that they took the Lord’s Name in vain, (what I considering literal swearing), the rest of the language is just made of letters that form words that are sometimes offensive in certain cultures. All that to say, it’s rated R … and some folks will miss out on a good story for that reason alone.

Which brings me to my first gold nugget of the film. Adam Sandler plays a dentist named Charlie Fineman. He is recognized on the street by his old friend, Allen Johnson (played by Don Cheadle). But Charlie does not recognize Allen, and soon enough Allen realizes that his friend is suffering from some sort of mental break-down. Come to find out, he is a widower as his wife and children were killed in one of the planes that hit the World Trade Center on 9-11.

While everyone is concerned about Charlie, they all want him to get better … and they want him to “deal” with his incapacities in “their” logical way. Charlie is obviously in deep denial and refuses to “remember” anything. Officially, he’s suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome … and he’s never dealt with the grief in his life … at least in a healthy, productive way.

He was dealing in his way … and though it seemed slow to his acquaintances (and perhaps that is a subtle irony of my noticing that the movie was a little slow) … perhaps to Charlie, it was the best he could do. As it turns out, his caring in-laws, who were also grieving, were trying to force him to deal. Eventually, his friend Allen joined that same pursuit.

Here’s the nugget: People deal with life circumstances in all kinds of ways. There are some recognizable symptoms that will clue us in to the idea that they are suffering … but still, what works for one person will not always work across the board. And we’re basically “intolerant” of people who don’t deal with things the way that we think they should … or in a way that is comfortable to us.

For example, I know three women in the same family who were molested as children by a family member. Each of these women have lived all of their lives with great emotional issues due to this abuse. But each of these dealt with the anxiety in different ways. One became an alcoholic, abused illegal drugs and attempted suicide many times; another became a hypochondriac and developed chronic illnesses throughout her life; and the third became very promiscuous and had numerous extra-marital affairs. None of these were a proper way to deal with the pain they held inside of them … but neither of these sisters received any help until very late in life. (most have lived over 50 years as a victim of sexual abuse)

Don Cheadle’s character had a habit of “seeking” help for a “friend” from a psychiatrist (Liv Tyler) who worked in his building. Ironically, he knew that he was dealing with emotional issues, but he could not face them openly. And yet, upon becoming reaquainted with Charlie, he wanted to “help” him find healing. We’re all prone to do the same thing … offer others “help” when we are really unwilling to help ourselves … or in denial that we’re dealing with our own issues.

I used to live by a woman who aspired to be a Christian counselor. I rarely spoke to her (for actually I thought she was a NUT), but one day in the laundry room, she approached me to say, “I know you were an abused wife. I was abused, so I can recognize the symptoms in others.” Quite frankly, I gave serious thought to giving her a little abuse — (she really was a NUT) — but I assured her that she didn’t know me well enough to make any assumptions, and if I was abused, she would not be the person that I sought for counsel. I resented her assuming she knew what might be going on in my heart or life.

Another truth that comes to mind is that what one person deems as abuse, another might just see as a way of life. When I think of abuse, battering, physical assaults come to mind. But I also know that mental and emotional abuse can cause as much damage (maybe sometimes more) than a slap across the face. Neither are acceptable in my mind. But I must recognize that there are different levels of tolerance for every individual. What would break me to pieces, might not even phase another person.

Another character in the movie (and I’m sorry I cannot recall who played this part) was a single woman who was seemingly suffering from nymphomania. She is a patient of the psychiatrist in Don Cheadle’s building, and she ends up putting a move on Don Cheadle. It scares him to death … and though he’s obviously in a mid-life crisis, he refuses her advances. (Go Don!)

She’s a side character that you wonder throughout the movie what she’s got to do with the story. Her story isn’t explained until the latter part of the film and so I was constantly asking myself, “now, wonder what she’s got to do with any of this.”

Well, even after you hear her story, you still might ask that. It’s not until the very end, when Charlie Fineman’s mental capacities are in question in a court that she brings in the greatest gold nugget of the film. Everybody is wondering if Charlie is sane … and capable of managing on his own. He’s obviously messed up, delusional — MESSED UP. But this lady becomes intrigued by his story and follows his court proceedings with her psychiatrist … and finally offers this insight.

“Why can’t they just see his heart is broken?”

(or something along those lines)

When she said it, I thought … “Yeh, that’s right. What can’t they just see that?” I know that there have been so many times in my life when my own actions didn’t seem “right.” Sometimes, my actions were mostly detrimental to me. I could not completely understand what or why I was doing “stuff.” There’s not always evident rhyme or reason to human behavior —- but I wonder if we all sat down on a curb and looked around, would we not see that you could chalk a great deal of it up to a broken heart.

Now I know there’s plenty of people out there ready to pipe in and say, “Well, you can’t blame everything on a broken heart.” And, “There comes a time when you have to get over it.”

REALLY? I mean, REALLY????

Well, that may very well be. But who are we to say or know how long it REALLY takes to get over a broken heart?

When Charlie heard this woman say that … he shook his head in agreement, like finally, somebody “got it.” It would seem that Charlie was so consumed and overwhelmed with his grief and loss that even he could not think clearly enough to recognize or name his problem. By hearing her say it, he seemed to gain a little bit of clarity. He got up from the curb and went inside the courthouse to address his in-laws. And that was his first step in getting a grip.

Maybe the woman in my laundry was right to a certain extent. Maybe she could recognize a victim of abuse in me. Obviously the nymphomaniac woman knew a broken heart for she was able to recognize it in Charlie.

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