Recapping The Top Tearjerkers in Film of All Time: Part 1, we moviegoers love our communal cry fests.
If you missed this pleasure in the theaters, you can indulge at home with others who, hopefully, won’t tease you, but will ask you to pass the tissue box, instead.
Meryl Streep won her second Oscar, her first as Best Actress, for this devastating portrait of a Holocaust survivor trying to find happiness and hope in 1940s Brooklyn. Sophie falls in love with “pharmaceutical researcher”, Nathan, (Kevin Kline) who has secrets of his own, and later the couple befriends Stingo, an author (Peter MacNicol). The title dilemma is responsible for this movie’s main five handkerchief moments, though the ending is also brutal in its psychological severity. While the subject seems ripe for real melodrama, Alan J. Pakula’s adaptation of William Styron’s novel is controlled convention. It’s Streep’s electrifying performance that brings all the tragedies to life.
A young Italian boy living in a small village is so enamored with the movies that he begs the local projectionist, a brusque, burly man named Alfredo (French icon Philippe Noiret) to let him sit in during screenings. Eventually, the two form a friendship that moves far beyond the master/apprentice set-up. Once tragedy strikes, our young hero must grow up fast. But it’s the finalé, involving a reel of edited footage that really gets the waterworks going. Director Giuseppe Tornatore’s love letter to his past went on to win awards at Cannes, the Golden Globes, and the Academy Awards. It’s a heartfelt tribute to the magic of movies.
Remember that viral video from a few years back showing a pair of Australian men reunited with the lion they saved from a Harrod’s window display? Well, the book upon which this feature film was based trumped their tale by a decade. Oddly enough, that lion’s tale was actually part of author George Adamson’s wildlife conservationist efforts. Here, we get the first time the activist and his wife had to reintroduce an orphaned animal (which they named Elsa) back into her native habitat. The story is the same, and so are the emotions. For those of us who grew up in the era, this was our Old Yeller.
David Lynch’s work is not really known for tugging at your heartstrings. F*cking with your mind? Well, that’s another story. But when he agreed to follow-up the flummoxing yet brilliant Eraserhead with this look at real life historical human oddity, John Merrick, few left theaters dry eyed. Lynch looked deep into this unfortunate man’s life and plight and delivered the kind of devastated truth that turns grown men into blubbering babies. This is especially true during a moment when Merrick (John Hurt) meets Dr. Treves’ (Anthony Hopkins) wife. His delicate manners, and his deep concern about his family just floors you.
Kevin Costner stepped up to bat for this loose adaptation of W.P. Kinsella’s book Shoeless Joe (no J.D. Salinger on display here) and hit one right out of the cornfield. Fathers and sons have spent countless hours bonding and bawling over this sentimental expression of the American Dream, even turning the film site into a tourist attraction. The main theme here is missed opportunities, and for many parents and children, said stumbles become the stuff of solid psychological schisms. Here, we get an imaginary reunion, a simple game of catch that makes up for decades of disagreement and distrust.