natalie portman is trying to tell me something 

one of my favorite podcasts (there are four, maybe i’ll share later, in order of preference) is “Modern Love.” The 20-30 minute audio program is based on the New York Times column of the same name, which has been publishing letters written by readers about “love, loss, and redemption” for more than a decade. the stories are beautiful, written mostly by novelists, writers or professors (which makes me a bit jealous as i’d like to send in a story one day and will obviously have very stiff competition). the podcast rendition includes an actor reading the story and then interviews with the actor, and david jones, the editor of the NYT column, all reflecting on why that particular story moved them. the absolute best part is the short interview with original story writer, which serves as a sort of prologue. 

yesterday, as i drove across town to have breakfast with family, i listened to one about a young guy who falls in love with the impossible fun, fearless, adventurous (read: unstable) cool girl and in it he references Natalie Portman’s character in “Garden State.” The podcast episode was, as always, great! and it reminded me that once upon a time i started to watch, but never finished, Zach Braff’s directorial debut. i made a mental note to try and watch it at some point. 

fast forward 12 hours later, and guess what’s on TV? right from the beginning! i sat down to watch and pay attention to the love story between the two. it made me sad and miss that “favorite ex” 😭 but the message reminded me that even pain and longing is important to feel–it’s what makes us human. Andrew is numb to everything until he meets his sparky, quirky counterpart. that being a movie and all, the happy ending is predictable but still endearing. natalie portman is really one of a kind. i take a deep breath, wipe my watery eyes and scan the channel guide to watch what’s next. 

then, i catch one of my other favorites right at the beginning! “where the heart is” is a matriarchal storyline about a teen mom who is traveling cross-country with her boyfriend when they stop at a wal-mart and he callously leaves her behind. from there a series of life events both bring fortune and disappointment to her life. she befriends a nurse who becomes like a sister and after a particular harrowing episode she asks Natalie Portman’s character “how am i going to explain this to my kids, my babies?” to which natalie portman’s Novalee responds:

“You tell them that our lives can change with every breath we take… and tell ’em to hold on like hell to what they’ve got: each other, and a mother who would die for them and almost did… You tell them we’ve all got meanness in us, but we’ve got goodness too. And the only thing worth living for is the good. And that’s why we’ve got to make sure we pass it on.”

“where the heart is” brings a message of weathering life’s storms and all we can do is continue to be good and hope for a brighter tomorrow. we are strong enough to endure the hardships and we don’t know if or when they will turn into our next blessing. 

I cried some more, thanks to one of our generation’s greatest actresses, thought about the message of the two movies, took a deep breath and went to bed.


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