My friend Theo recommended I watch Frances Ha ages ago and, on December 8th, I did. And I loved it. First, it needs to be said that the main character, Frances, is a little bit like all of us: hopeful, uncertain, trying to find a way to manage her values and dreams whilst still being able to pay her rent. Greta Gerwig, who wrote and stars in the film, wrote a story and gave a performance that made me feel– made me feel a whole lot– and I’ve been carrying the film with me and mulling it over for quite some time. After my initial viewing, I told Theo that I’d send her a response soon. Well, Theo, this is my response. And soon is a relative term, right?
I wept at the end of Frances Ha not because I was nostalgic for a time that once was, but because I wanted to be. If you took the reel of my life and rewound it four years, I was in a place where I would’ve watched this film and said “Oh, I am Frances!” and I would have felt excited and safe knowing that a future of 20-something struggle, mishap and adventure was mine for the taking. That it was normal. At that time, I was loving my single lady life in Boston. I had moments where I hit the sauce too hard and made some questionable life decisions, but I had good friends to pass the time with and a solid support system. It’s like that Sinatra song: “When I was 21, it was a very good year. I used to walk through the city and feel like everything around me was raw and electric and full of opportunity, when I was 21!” (Oh, those aren’t the lyrics? Oops.)
I met David in February of 2010 and I can now see that my own life trajectory is also a lot like Sophie’s, Frances’ best friend played by Mickey Sumner. Like Sophie, I fell in love (unexpectedly), said bon voyage to my roommates, to all my undergraduate furniture and to the vagabond uncertainty of my single life and exchanged it for the special kind of freedom that comes with being in a committed relationship. The freedom to focus. The freedom to mix your books on the shelf with someone else’s and not worry about getting them all back when the lease is up. The freedom of knowing that no matter how bad things get, you have someone who’s going to fight for the future right alongside you.
I wouldn’t change my decision to marry and move to a new country, but this film made me wonder what would’ve happened if I hadn’t met David, if I had instead moved to Minneapolis or New York, or even stayed in Boston, and had to figure my shit out on my own. What crappy job would I have taken and where would it have led? What roommates would I have gotten drunk with and cried in front of and how many broken hearts would I have survived– both romantically and otherwise? Would I have given up my dreams or would I have fought, alone, for whomever it was that I wanted to become? It’s silly, but this film made me nostalgic for the life I never lived. It opened the door in my imagination to the land of What If.
Over the weekend, David and I went to London to visit a friend who lives in a great apartment (one that wasn’t very self-aware, might I add) with three roommates, all of them living on top of each other like puppies in a cardboard box, lovingly tumbling over ears and paws and tails until they’re scooped up, one-by-one, and brought somewhere new. It’s a transitional kind of happiness, these roommate situations. Little families are formed and a special kind of balance between intimacy and privacy happens. It’s exciting but it’s stressful and sitting at my friend’s kitchen table, with empty bottles lining the cupboard tops like trophies, I felt that familiar undercurrent of raw electricity and my Frances musings came full circle.
In the film, Frances says, “I’m so embarrassed I’m not a real person yet” and when she said it, I was like Yeah, me too sister. Even though I have a mortgage and a cat and a permanent roommate (hi, David), I can still relate. We always think the next step forward will be the answer to all our uncertainties, will make us a little more whole, but we’re all still figuring it out. We’re all a little bit like Frances, regardless of whether or not we can be categorised as “real people” yet. And isn’t that kinda the beauty of life?
I feel like I’m saying this all wrong, like I’m not really making sense, but I hope you know what I mean. A little bit, anyway. Maybe we can talk about it over a drink one day. I would really like that.
*Yes, there are a lot of generalisations in this post. No, I don’t want to get into a discussion about how problematic that is. Thanks.
Photo via Frances Ha