Now, don’t get me wrong here, we’re not talking about E.T. boarding the mothership, that grouchy old biffer’s tawdry life-story in Up or Kate Winslet telling Leo she’ll “Never let go, Jack!” before sending him plummeting to the bottom of the ocean (fibbing bitch…) – frankly, that's the kind of manipulative fodder reserved for the wailing masses in multiplexes. No, indeed, we snobbish dilettantes are looking for something altogether more distressing from our reticent weep-fests, and so it’s with a fresh box of Kleenex and a hearty dose of ‘New Man’ that I hereby present…
THE TOP 10 MOST QUIETLY HEARTBREAKING MOMENTS IN FILM
10) The entire fucking movie – LETTER FROM AN UNKNOWN WOMAN (1948)
9) Kelvin and Rheya – SOLARIS (2002)
8) Christie’s Achilles heel – AMERICAN PSYCHO (2000)
One of the more admirable (and often-overlooked) elements of Mary Harron and Guinevere Turner’s magnificent Bret Easton Ellis adaptation is the insertion of a sly feminist subtext illuminating the rampant misogyny of 80s corporate culture, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the figure of tragic street-hooker Christie (Cara Seymour). Having already been told to “Get down on your knees so Sabrina can see your asshole” and subjected to a narcissistic, Phil Collins-scored three-way which ends in a bout of impromptu mutilation, she once again finds herself accosted on the kerbside by preening lunatic Patrick Bateman. “I’m not so sure about this”, she tells him, walking away in grim resolution; “I actually might need a little surgery after last time”. Bateman’s limo crawls ominously alongside her. He whistles at her as one might an impressionable animal, tantalisingly waving a wad of money to entice her into the vehicle. The look on her face says it all: there are simply no other options open to her. Perhaps rather inevitably, she ends up getting chainsawed in a stairwell.
7) Singin’ In the Rain – PUNCHLINE (1988)
It’s a crying shame in and of itself that Tom Hanks’ best-ever performance should reside in such a little-known and thoroughly average movie, but here it is. As self-destructive comedian Steven Gold, Hanks seems to spend the entire film attempting to sabotage what looks certain to be a glittering career in stand-up by engaging in periodic onstage meltdowns and falling in love with Sally Field’s bumbling housewife (itself inherently bothersome given that she ended up playing his onscreen mother just a few years later). Eventually plucking up the courage to confess his feelings in a low-rent diner one night, his inevitable rejection is marked by an act of shattering self-immolation as he vainly attempts to make light of the snub. “It’s okay”, he tells her; “I’m funny Steven, singing and dancing for your entertainment, with his own rendition of... Singin’ In the Rain!” - before taking to the piss-drenched streets and enacting the famous Gene Kelly routine with such barely-contained self-loathing that Momma Gump can only look on in horror. Wounder.
One could probably write an entire tear-soaked treatise on Rinku Kikuchi’s turn as the deaf schoolgirl in this film, but it’s in an altogether smaller moment that director Alexander González Iñárritu reveals his true colours. Struck by a stray bullet in the wastelands of Morocco, tourist Cate Blanchett will surely die unless she receives treatment from the nearby village; selfishly abandoned by their fellow passengers, she and husband Brad Pitt are left at the mercy of a peasant woman and her benevolent son. Nowhere does the film’s central thesis of communication across seemingly insurmountable barriers prove more moving than the instance where Pitt attempts to express his gratitude to the couple’s saviour by handing him the contents of his wallet. The noble peasant refuses, but Pitt insists; when it becomes clear that the affluent American’s money is wholly superfluous to the act of helping a fellow human being, he responds with a desperate, silent mouthing of the words “Thank you...” – his visible emotion obscured by the roar of a helicopter, itself whited out on the soundtrack. Poor old Brad is clearly far too rich and good-looking to ever win any kind of award for his acting - which is a bit of a shitter for him, since he’s really very good indeed.
4) “Why did you do it?” – EDWARD SCISSORHANDS (1990)
In a film of hankering incidents destined to leave even the most stone-hearted bastard reaching for the corneas claiming to have “something in their eye”, this one really is the absolute kicker. Having spent a night in the cells for his part in an organised break-in, ol’ razor-fingers finally ’fesses up to his beloved that he knew all along the house they were robbing belonged to her boyfriend. “Then why did you do it?”, she asks in total incomprehension. “Because you asked me to”, he replies, doe-eyes yearning like an obedient puppy. Fucking hell. I mean, just… FUCKING hell. He loves the girl so much, but he can’t even touch her because his hands are made of knives. Oh, GOD…!
1) The handbag – THE KILLER INSIDE ME (2010)
The shocker to end them all. Beaten to within an inch of her life by weaselly sociopath Casey Affleck, impossibly doting spouse Kate Hudson reaches weakly for her handbag as it lies on the floor beside her. What’s she going for? Is it a gun? A mobile phone to call for help? It’s only after the gut-raking reveal a few minutes later that the full weight of it hits you. The very definition of a one-two punch, the revelation will haunt you for weeks. Kate Hudson should’ve had a fucking Oscar for this, and there’s a phrase you don’t hear very often (or, in fact, ever - especially since she made that shit surfing film with Matthew McConaughey).
PS - Alright, I will admit to marding like a big girl when Mrs Jumbo cradles her baby through the cell bars, but only because it was a traumatic part of my childhood.