Cry Me a River

I’ve been thinking about the movies that make me cry. OK, it could be a long list, as I’m the sort who likes to live vicariously through the plots of whatever she watches (what’s the point of watching if you are still aware you are sitting in your living room? it’s all about escape, right?). It amazes me how some moments never lose their poignancy for me. Yesterday, for instance, my daughter and I were watching West Side Story. I never make it much past the mock wedding, even though neither the (synched) singing nor the acting is altogether convincing:

The gorgeous Kiri / Jose version of “One Hand, One Heart” shows off the score better, but to me there’s something about Natalie Wood’s wide-eyed innocent beauty that I find heart-wrenching every time.

The ravishing Zeffirelli feature film of La Traviata is another one. I tear up about starting about here…

…and don’t recover until the end. The first time I saw it in the theatre, I could barely stand up when it was over. (Of course, Joan Sutherland is the only one who could really sing the whole part.)

Also on my list: Melanie’s death in Gone with the Wind, Beth’s death in any version of Little Women, most of the Zeffirelli Romeo and Juliet (I gather purists don’t love this version, but once again I’m a sucker for youth and beauty), and the last hour of Wit, in which the visiting mentor’s gentle reading of The Runaway Bunny should undo even most cool and detached observer.

I think the ability to cry at movies may be a prerequisite for becoming a Victorianist, actually. We all know Oscar Wilde’s sneer that it would take a heart of stone to read the death of Little Nell without laughing. Well, I cry when Jo dies in Bleak House, and there are parts of In Memoriam that I slip past in class because I don’t want to risk reading them aloud. (I also wept my way through the final chapters of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and, more recently, A Thousand Splendid Suns.)

OK, ‘fess up: I can’t be the only sentimental fool out there. What movies (or books, if you prefer) always make you cry?

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