I haven't reviewed a film for a while now, but tonight after watching Ruby Sparks I kind of felt compelled to do so. The film starts out in the same way all RomComs do, nothing particularly different is happening from the norm. But then, gradually, the film becomes more and more dark; Well, dark for a RomCom which is essentially a mix between Weird Science and Stranger than Fiction.
We begin in a familiar fashion. We learn about the sensitive traits of the main character Calvin and how he yearns to meet somebody. He seems the typical quiet, shy type that is just looking for somebody to love; he's a soft, gentle misunderstood soul and he writes. I know, what are the odds right?
This longing for love becomes so prominent in his life that he begins to dream about the perfect girl. After a few encounters and a challenge from his therapist, Calvin begins to write again. Only, he chooses to write about this girl he has become completely besotted with. His writer's block is traded for unsociable obsession as he knocks out several chapters of Ruby's background, her life, her soul, her essence.
Then the fun begins. Ruby comes to life and we are reminded that this is a light hearted RomCom. So far. Montages, the problems of meeting the family and integrating her into his world.
The fun doesn't last too long. Things get very, very dark. Calvin's crippling fear of being abandoned is mentioned several times by this point, mostly as a result of being dumped by his one and only girlfriend. As the honeymoon period wears off between him and Ruby, she attempts to break free and find her own identity in life, away from Calvin. Oddly enough, Calvin isn't too happy about this. In one scene Ruby is out drinking with new friends and tells Calvin she won't be coming over. Calvin, who has been slaving away over a hot stove (what a stupid fucking expression) making dinner, can sense that she is slipping from his grasp. In an act of desperation, he goes back to the typewriter and makes Ruby massively dependent on him; so scared to leave him even for a second, that she can't even bare him to answer the phone and let go of her hand. This particular trait, which is a mirror image of himself is an ugly realisation that he is not in a real relationship because he is holding this creation hostage to his own ideals and his own crippling insecurities.
The darkness of this film lies in it's ability to get you to relate to the main character Calvin, but to then gradually expose the ugly truth that Calvin is actually a bit of an asshole. He is the perfect illustration of all of our worst sides. He is scared that she'll leave him but repulsed by her clingy behaviour and in there lies the problem. He wants her to be perfect. He wants her to be at his desire's beckoning call. He does not want her to be a person.
Luckily for Calvin he realises this and attempts to do the right thing; there's hope for us all yet. It's pretty fitting that today is one year to the day that me and my ex girlfriend broke up and I saw a lot of familiar themes in this film. If you try to hold onto a person too tightly, they will run from you screaming. If you ignore them they will give you resentful attention that is motivated from despair and sadness. The challenge of all relationships is finding that balance. Calvin should perhaps consider watching Breakfast at Tiffinay's, if only for the last scene where he would learn that woman do not want to be put in a cage. If you love something, set it free. If you can learn to do that and it comes back to you? At that point, put a ring on it.
Either that or you know, build a dungeon downstairs and keep her there... no not in your mind. A real one, like that nifty Austrian guy.