1. IT’S COMPLICATED
Ten years after their divorce, Jane (Meryl Streep) and Jake (Alec Baldwin) rekindle their spark and have an affair. Their adult children are not happy about this as they are still recovering from their parents’ divorce. I commend the writing that shows Meryl and Alec’s ability to relate to and respect each other as co-parents, despite the ups and downs of their personal relationship.
What we can learn from this movie: At one point in the movie, Jake apologizes to Jane and Jane asks, “How far back does that apology go?” - because she needs it to go “WAY” back. I have witnessed a contentious, adversarial divorce litigation come to a peaceful resolution simply because one party apologized to the other. Do not underestimate the power of an apology.
Warning: Do not attempt to watch this movie without at least one full box of tissues. Susan Sarandon, “Mom”, and Julia Roberts, “Stepmom”, thaw their frosty relationship when Mom is diagnosed with an incurable form of cancer and comes to terms with Stepmom inevitably stepping into her role as the primary caregiver to her two young children.
What we can learn from this movie: There is a scene in which the young son tells his mother that he will hate his stepmom if she wants him too. It is perfectly normal to view your spouse’s new paramour with some level of jealously or even disdain. Working through those feelings is important to your mental health and, more importantly, you children’s well-being.
3. BLUE VALENTINE
The demise of Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy’s (Michelle Williams) marriage is not easy to watch. The actors portray their characters with such emotion, that you will find it hard not to sympathize for them and their young daughter, Frankie. Similarly to Stepmom, this movie portrays how family is extends beyond bloodlines.
What we can learn from this movie: When Dean begs Cindy not to leave him because he doesn’t want Frankie to come from a broken home, Cindy tells him that is better than having her grow up in a home where her parents treat each other poorly. If you believe remaining in an unhappy marriage is best for your children, think twice. Sometimes, parents do not appreciate how perceptive children can be. Children eventually realize their parents' marriage was an unhealthy and unhappy one. However, due to the fact that their parents remained in the marriage, the unhappy, unhealthy relationship is what they learn for themselves and sometimes mimic.
4. DEFINITELY MAYBE
This movie is based on a conversation that Ryan Reynolds has with his young daughter (Maya), in which he explains the impending divorce from her mother. Through a series of flashbacks, it tells the story of how he met and fell in love with her mother. Watch this one after Blue Valentine to lift your spirits.
What we can learn from this movie: Although her mother was not the love of his life, Maya’s dad tells her she is his happy ending. Similarly, forget about all the reasons why it didn’t work out with your spouse. Forget about wishing you never met him or her. If you hadn’t, you would never have your happy ending – your kids.
5. FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL
OK, so technically not a divorce movie – but it is a break-up movie. This movie realistically (and hysterically) shows the stages a person goes through after an emotional break-up. Initially, Jason Segal’s character experiences depression, despair and engages in reckless behavior while reminiscing about all of Kristen Bell’s character’s “good” traits. As time goes on and he begins to heal, he no longer yearns for the old good times. Rather, he grows to realize he was in a relationship with the wrong person.
What we can learn from this movie: There is life after a break-up. It may not be so easy to see that when you’re in the midst of the turmoil, but have faith. You will gain the clarity that may have escaped you in the initial throws of the break-up. You will feel normal again.