If Steve is gone for the evening and I have some free time, I’m in the habit of watching a chick flick. Not that Steve wouldn’t watch one with me if I asked, but its a fun, girly way to spend some time when he’s gone. Last night was one of those times. Steve was on a guys outing this weekend with his dad and brothers to see a Yankees game, so after spending the afternoon out in the beautiful sunshine, I settled down for the evening to watch North and South.
I discovered North and South on Netflix several weeks ago. Its actually not a movie, but a four part BBC series. And yes, I had already watched all four episodes a few weeks earlier, but I loved it so much that I couldn’t resist watching it again… in one sitting. Oh boy!
I am not ashamed to admit that I love the Jane Austen type of movies, or “period dramas” as I think they’re officially called. Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorite movies and North and South has some similar themes, which may be part of the reason I like it.
No, its not a Civil War story as you might guess from the title. The series is based on a novel by Elizabeth Gaskell and centers around the relationship between Margaret Hale and John Thornton in the setting of an industrial city in 19th century England.
Margaret Hale is forced to leave the home she loves in the south of England when her father chooses to move the family to the northern city of Milton. It is there they meet Mr. Thornton, a manufacturer who runs a cotton mill. I won’t try to give much in the way of a synopsis since I would end up either spoiling things for someone who might want to watch this, or boring those people who don’t want to watch it (but you should watch it!!). I will say that there is a love story, of course, but I also really enjoyed the storyline of both the Hale and Thornton families, as well the historical context of a threatened strike at the cotton mills and the struggles of life at that time.
I loved watching the movie again last night as much as I did the first time. Today I was thinking about why these kinds of movies stick with me. Why do I enjoy them so much?
Part of it is the historical setting. I think it is interesting to imagine life in such a different time…where everything from their clothing to the way they interact with one another is so foreign compared to today. Another part of it is the suspense of being the outside viewer… knowing both characters’ stories, seeing how those stories have shaped who they are but have also contributed to misunderstandings or struggles between them, and just waiting and hoping they will come to understand each other.
But I think the main reason is that, to me, these are the best kind of love stories.
Culture today is so obsessed with physical things that the word love has become skewed, and is instead wrongly used to describe thoughts and actions of lust. Take a look at the love stories in (most) movies based in the modern day. How much of the story is focused on the physical attraction? How long does it take for the characters to hop into bed together? And how often is this portrayed as the sign of “love” between them?
Whereas in these, North and South-type movies, a simple touch of the hand is special and a kiss is practically sacred. By the time the characters actually get together, the sweet innocent kiss they share is a million times more meaningful than any of those modern characters sleeping together (not to mention a much better moral model – see Hebrews 13:4).
In these stories, although there may certainly be physical attraction, the characters come to love one another for who they are as an individual, for their inner traits and the qualities that define them. In fact, I would go so far as to say that, in coming to love one another, the characters bring out the best in each other.
There is always some initial misunderstanding, some flaw in each individual that the other person clearly sees. But over time their relationship allows each person to recognize their own faults. In doing so they not only change for the better, but also become more forgiving and understanding of one another, and more capable of appreciating the good in the other person. Neither person is perfect, but they love each other anyway, and its the journey to discover this truth that makes their love so much more worthwhile.
If we are honest with ourselves, isn’t this what we all want, and need, in a true love relationship? I am certainly thankful that in my marriage I am loved for who I am and am challenged through our relationship to become a better person, and to be forgiving of each other when we make mistakes. Neither of us are perfect, but we love each other through it all! That is the kind of love that lasts, that is worth pursuing and treasuring.
And that’s why I think stories like North and South stick with me. I recommend watching it… not just because it is a compelling story, with great acting and a beautiful soundtrack, but because it is truly romantic in the way that many modern stories are missing out.
Because it is an example of the best kind of love story.