Sophie’s Choice

Plot: A mother has to choose between her son and her daughter

I was feeling hospitable, so invited two of my friends over to join me for the next film in my Streep marathon; the same two friends who had mistaken her for Glenn Close. They’re lucky I still acknowledge their existence.

It wasn’t until the film had started that I awkwardly realised that I had invited my friend and his Eastern European girlfriend to watch a film about a man, his friend and his Eastern European girlfriend. Thankfully the adorable mispronunciation of words is the only thing Sophie and my Baltic friend have common (Ask her to say ‘video’ and try not to resist impulsively ‘Awwww-ing’ when she responds ‘wideo’).

I remember the last time I watched this film, it was at least six years ago with my housemate in my draughty student bedroom. After the final scene with Sophie’s face fading into the Brooklyn skyline as Stingo reads Emily Dickinson’s ‘Ample Make This Bed’, we retreated to under my duvet and held each other silently. Hearing the music from the final scene still sets my lip quivering.

 

It is a beautiful film, one of my favorite of Meryl’s and of films that don’t feature her in the cast, a foreign concept in this year of serial Streep-ing. While it is best remembered for the pivotal and traumatic choice scene, Meryl’s performance throughout is one of her best (and was enough to win her the Best Actress Oscar in 1983). Her flawless Polish accent was just one of the components in transforming herself into the fragile, world-weary Sophie.

I let go the rage and sorrow for Sophie and Nathan… and for the many others who were but a few of the butchered and betrayed and martyred children of the Earth. When I could finally see again, I saw the first rays of daylight reflected in the murky river. This was not judgment day. Only morning; morning, excellent and fair.

– Stingo

The single problem that I have with this film’s popularity, and the book it is based upon, is how the phrase ‘Sophie’s Choice’ has now filtered into common usage. Like when Dermot O’Leary likens Simon picking between two no-hopers on The X Factor to choosing which of your children should be sent to their death. Or even worse, this restaurant in Sidcup named after the film. Ah yes, I fancy eating a soggy Croque-monsieur in an eaterie named after a harrowing Holocaust flick. No. Shut it down.

After the film, we spoke about developments in our friendship group – good, and the Nazis – not good. I suggested we power through till 2am with a viewing of Schindler’s List but they didn’t seem too keen. As they walked out the door, I asked what Meryl film we should watch next.

“101 Dalmatians,” she said.

5/5

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