Sidney Lumet's 1988 film Running On Empty, will, unless advancing age should steal my memory, always occupy it's own special corner of my
consciousness and feelings. My daughter Sarah was a couple months shy of 14 in the spring of 1989, when the 2 of us took a chance on this great little
movie, during its brief run in an old neighborhood theater, in Barberton, Ohio. I just wanted to briefly mention a scene not connected with the end or climax of the film, that most would consider a small spoiler. (I think the scene would affect most who have heard about it anyway) So, fair warning.
The scene involves Christine Lahti's character, who has an estranged relationship with her father who she has not seen in years, having a brief meeting
with her Dad in a restaurant. The father seems angry and bitter due to the things his daughter did that make it risky for her to even be seen with him. But when his daughter gets up and leaves, having made it clear that circumstances demand that it was the last time they could ever see each other. Steven Hill, as the father, is brilliant at conveying the hard exterior of a man who's angry that his daughter deserted his life, years before, but literally, as his daughter is walking away again, can't prevent some of his love and pain from surfacing. When I saw that scene, in the spring of 1989, with my own daughter, it just tore me up. Anyway, I have a brother-in-law who insists that it's silly to ever shed a tear watching a film. This man, who's in his 70s, is a really nice guy, but when he sees his own wife, my wife, or me, having an emotional reaction to a film, after it ends, he will always say "Come on, it was only a movie!" I like Carl very much and just think it's a shame that he never suspends disbelief enough to put himself in the place of a character onscreen. I think that it must constantly be on his mind that he is just watching people who are merely play acting in imaginary situations. No wonder Carl says that he has never seen a movie that scared him. My brother-in-law just doesn't realize, as he chuckles about those who respond to films, that those with enough imagination to have such reactions, are much richer than he. I guess that if all of us who love movies were to lose our ability to suspend disbelief, our movie collections would become pretty worthless to us.
Finally, Interlepos, thank you for bringing up Running On Empty, which has a special resonance for me, when I remember my daughter and the time we had experiencing the film together, in that old theater, more than two and a half decades ago.
Thank you for the post. I totally agree. I consider people who do connect strongly to movies to be very lucky. Not just looking at movies as an opportunity to kill 2 hours, but being able to respond to a great story, and appreciate great filmmaking. Movies, when they are done well, can be a sublime and inspiring art form.
I recall that scene you described from the movie, and remember it well. It's a very good movie. With superb acting, story and heart. Without having seen all his subsequent films, I believe it might be Lumet's last truly great film.