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The Upside of Anger

April 22nd, 2005 · 3 Comments

[written April 11]

Through the month, I’ve started to explore anger within my life, seeing the result of rage in new angles and aspects.

Coincidentally, a friend asked me if I’d like to go see The Upside of Anger with her on Saturday night [April 9]. For weeks we’d been trying to get out to the cinema one evening sans children. It was worth the effort. The acting was fabulous and intense. I especially liked the director, Mike Binder, as an actor. His monologue explaining his character’s lifestyle hit truth. Joan Allen, Kevin Costner and the rest of the cast are also strong. It’s a roller coaster ride, a bittersweet experience through outbursts of laughter and anger. But it was more than a movie to me.

The story of a woman whose husband disappeared, leaving her to raise four teenage daughters on her own, seemed familiar to me from my experiences both in childhood and motherhood. The film helped me examine my past and present. It illuminated my life and let me laugh.

I liked how the movie explored how people go forward – or don’t go forward – from the past. One line given by one character to another described life after pain as a limp. I believe in healing but I also don’t believe it is ever fully complete in this life. If we walk with a limp and with grace, we can have humility and empathy.

Anger does dominate the film. Where does anger come from? What is its source? These questions were not answered for me by the film and were only accentuated by the ending. I felt the end required another entire movie if it were realistic.

How should one handle anger? What do we do with emotions? How can families move through transition times? All questions raised by the film, and questions many people have experienced in life, especially in the past few decades as divorce has increased.

The relationship between parent and child, especially mothers and daughters is highlighted in its fragility and power. My friend Jenny has written about her feelings, the angry mother and The Angry Woman. I think The Angry Woman is something many women are afraid to be and yet hide her inside. Why?

In the movie it is easy to see how damaging and destructive parents can be. Yet there is also change and a reconciliation of sorts provided by the plot. It was refreshing to see a film that focussed on a middle-aged woman as the central character and on the emotions that come with abandonment. Anger can be expressed physically or verbally; Upside shows examples of both. Although Joan Allen’s character seems extreme, I suspect many families can relate to the story, more than they might want to admit.

I’ve read reviews of the movie that criticized its lack of action or plot. For me the film was a journey through a family, through characters as they changed in the shape of a situation. It also became a journey through myself and my experiences.

The movie contains statements what the upside of anger is, in a positive light, and I’ll save that for those who see the film. My first reaction to situations is often sorrow, sucked inward, but I am seeing anger in me as we have gone through the grief process recently. I don’t think anger is great in itself. But I think anger reveals how much love was in a relationship. If I am angry at someone it is because I had invested myself, had expectations and had poured pieces of my life into that person. Anger shows me I wanted something that didn’t happen. Anger reveals desire. It shows me what matters to me. It tells me I cared, even if I didn’t say or think I did. Anger demonstrates the power of emotion and the depth possible in the situation. Anger shows me what I want. Anger also shows me that in the midst of grief, I am still alive.

Tags: culture

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Kai Jones // Apr 22, 2005 at 11:00 am

    Thanks for a wonderful prod to my thinking. Quoted and discussed a bit on my livejournal.

  • 2 Susan Kitchens // Apr 22, 2005 at 12:03 pm

    There’s a little discussion of anger in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way.

    [quote] Anger is meant to listened to. Anger is a voice, a shout, a plea, a demand. Anger is meant to be resepected. Why? Because anger is a _map_. Anger shows us what our boundaries are. Anger shows us where we want to go. It lets us see where we’be been and lets u s know when we haven’t liked it.

    … Sloth, apathy and despair is the enemy. Anger is not. Anger is our friend. Not a nice friend. Not a gentle friend. But a very, very loyal friend. It will always tell us when we have been betrayed. It will always tell us when we have betrayed ourselves. It will always tell us that it is time to act in our own best interests [from pp 61, 62… end quote]

    Boy howdy, did I need to read that again! Having just gone through a bout of extreme anger (at self) mixed with anguish, despair. But I love that part about how anger is a friend. not a gentle friend, but a loyal friend.

  • 3 Julie // Apr 25, 2005 at 7:58 am

    Thanks, Kai, for your link and insight.

    Thanks, Susan, for the truth that anger is a friend. I’d like to read more from The Artist’s Way…

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