Film Watching Love Story thirty years after it was fresh and new is a difficult prospect. It’s a film which has been copied, pulled apart and thrown back together in so many different ways and the start of so many filmic clichés that to see it for the first time should be impossible. But it’s enchanting, at least for the first hour. Its stunning to see actually how funny and exciting it is. The dialogue is sparkey, the characters carefully laid out. These aren’t the stereotypical dumb lovers I was expecting. They’re going to Harvard for goodness sake. Ryan O’Neill and Ali McGraw have perfect chemistry. Although the courtship seems swift, it’s utterly believable.

I do have one issue. O’Neill finds out about McGraw’s illness. Not the illness, but the unanswered questions. O’Neill has gone in to see his doctor to find out why they can’t have kids. The doctor tells him it’s because his wife is very sick and she’s going to die. But that when he goes home he’s to treat his wife as normal. In other words, don’t tell your wife she’s going to die because it’s going to upset her. Is that any way to practice medicine? Imagine if that was the rule of e.r. Wife to Carter: What’s wrong with me? Carter: Hold on, I’m off to tell your husband, we wouldn’t want to upset you would we? It’s utterly distracting. And at no point do we find out what’s up with her. In Forrest Gump, Gump hears that Jenny is ill and that she doesn’t know what it is. It works because we have the hindsight to know it’s probably Aids. This isn’t happening in Love Story, some kind of rare blood disorder apparently. Unless I’ve missed the point.

Although this was perceived as a major studio release at the time, (by a Paramount in trouble) the budget was only $2 million. Which sounds like a lot, but when you consider that the larger releases subsisted on $10 million, it’s a pittance. Which explains the independent look of the thing. All of the tricks that Kevin Smith et al would employ later are right in here. There is a scene towards the end were the lovers enjoy a hot chocolate in a café overlooking an ice rink; there isn’t an establishing shot of the café, we assume because the director Arthur Hiller wanted to keep the intimacy of the doomed lovers. Actually it’s because he couldn’t afford to build a set, so he put up a table and two chairs and filmed a two-shot them looking at each other instead. It’s about the lovers and their place in space and it works.

The ending really is sad as hell. But for some reason I didn’t cry like everyone else. I love the characters and it is sad that she dies. But I think because I knew it’s going to happen from the beginning an inbuilt defense mechanism had already kicked in. But I’ve heard that in stories such as this it isn’t about the ending it’s about the journey, and that’s the part that I really cherish.

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