#ThinkpieceThursday – Destructive Lovers
by Guest Contributor Oscar Harding
There are two possible endings to every love story, either the characters are together at the conclusion or they are apart. If characters are to stay together they must work through their differences and, basically, grow up and grow together. When a love story ends tragically either one character can’t grow up or some greater internal force keeps them apart, like honor or duty.
Recent examples of each end are, Barry Jenkins’ 2016 best picture-winner Moonlight, and Abdellatif Kechiche’s 2013 Palme D’or-winner Blue Is The Warmest Colour. Spoilers follow for both films.
In Moonlight, central character Chiron (Ashton Sanders), discovers his sexuality and his love for friend Kevin (Jaden Piner). They are torn apart by Kevin’s brutal betrayal until their reconciliation after more than a decade.
In Blue Is The Warmest Colour, central character Adèle (Adèle Exarchopolous) has some awkward sexual experiences with men before realizing that enigmatic Emma (Lea Seydoux) is the one for her. But two fall out forever over Adèle’s impulsive affair.
Moonlight is a Power of Love story, and Blue is the Warmest Colour is a Power of Idealism story. In a Power of Love story, the couple ends up together. In a Power of Idealism story, they are separated lovers who are haunted by loss and longing.
In Moonlight, Chiron is a shy alienated Power of Reason character and Kevin is a charming eager to please Power of Ambition character. Kevin’s desperate desire to fit in explodes in violence toward Chiron as Kevin tries to fit into a toxic culture of the thuggish gang masculinity. Only drug dealer Juan (Mahershala Ali), a kindly Power of Love character provides the understanding and nurture that Chiron needs in his social isolation.
Chiron and Kevin are reunited after years apart. A more mature and humbled Kevin discovers Chiron has protected himself with the outward toughness of a thug. Kevin has found contentment as a fry cook who supports his son. Kevin’s honesty and tenderness give Chiron what he needs- love, not lust. Their relationship shows both men hope for real happiness.
In Blue is the Warmest Colour, both Adèle and Emma are Power of Idealism characters. They are intense, passionate, and gifted. Emma is a bold vibrant painter and Adele is a talented writer, too afraid to show her work and risk possible rejection.
Emma is devoted to Adèle. Adele is the great love of her life and muse for her glorious early paintings. She believes Adèle is perfect. Adele is unwilling to accept Emma’s adoration and be satisfied. Adèle fears Emma will ultimately reject her. She has an affair when Emma is preoccupied with helping a friend. When Emma discovers Adele’s betrayal they have an explosive screaming break up.
Years later they meet and a reconciliation is possible. But Emma has completed her emotional journey. She has grown up and finds contentment and peace in an ordinary domestic life. This grounds her creative growth and helps her mature as an artist.
Adele cannot move past her torment over her lost “great love’ with Emma. She is adrift in loss and longing and wants Emma back, or to have an affair at the very least. Emma refuses. She cherishes her family. Even though Adele is still her passionate “great love” Emma walks away from her. Adele simply cannot move on.
Power of Idealism stories always end with separated lovers. Other examples are Bridges of Madison County, Casablanca, or Gone with the Wind.
Power of Love stories always end with the lovers together. Examples are every romantic comedy you’ve ever seen.
Character is structure. Will your couple live happily ever after despite their differences? Or will the lovers part ways, remembering always that “great love” that got away?