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    When the Sky Falls on Writers: A Film Review

    The Sky Is Falling is a 1998 film (released in 2000) starring Dedee Pfeiffer. It's the story of Emily Hall, "a bright and talented but frustrated novelist whose book constantly gets rejected by publishers. Faced with the problem laden reality of her unsuccessful life, Emily lets her imagination take her down the road of wacky and ineffectual ways to kill herself. But, before she can find an acceptable form of suicide, Emily finds herself thrown into a volunteer job at a local hospital where, with her faithful dog Sam, she visits sick and terminally ill patients." (That film summary came from this site.)

    It begins with Emily receiving yet another rejection for her novel, a story about the last days of an 80-year old woman. Publishers didn't want to touch it. It was well-written but boring, as what one publisher told her, and people want to escape reality, not read about truth and/or death.

    Then her life starts to fall apart: her boyfriend of 10 years breaks up with her, her high school reunion is looming and she keeps meeting successful people from her class, she resorts to applying for temp jobs, everyone's (her 4 friends) futures, except hers, are going great, her psychic mother (played by Teri Garr) tells her that her father is not dead and wants to meet her (and her father turns out to be a successful photographer named Yogi, who professes that he has 'recovered' from having multiple personalities), her place gets thrashed one afternoon after coming home from volunteer work, and she gets more rejection letters.

    And so she begins to contemplate creative ways to kill herself: jump off a high-rise building, overdose on chocolate, death-by-gillette, shoot herself, stick a big chef knife to her stomach, ram her van against a wall...

    In the background is news about a Chinese satellite run amuck, which is predicted to fall on earth in the next few days.

    As a hospital volunteer, Emily got to know grumpy Mr. Finch, a professor, who has been in the hospital's terminally-ill ward for 6 months. After Emily's nth visit, the grumpy wall crumbles. He knows right away Emily is a writer and offers to read her novel. To Emily's "I'm beginning to think I'm not really a writer," he responds, "People are not going to believe you're a writer until you believe it yourself."

    The next time Emily visits Mr. Finch, his room is empty. A nurse informs her he died the night before and they found him holding her novel. "He finally let go," says the nurse. Believing her novel was what killed Mr. Finch, Emily runs and locks herself in the hospital's utility room, where bottles of high-dosage drugs are stored. She grabs several and with her imagination in high gear, she sees herself lying on a table in the ER, being revived by doctors and nurses. She stands crying in one corner, looking at her dead body, which gets up and asks her, "Is this how you want to die?" And in that instant, she realizes her novel, One Final Day, holds meaning for her.

    A few days later, she runs into Mrs. Finch in the hospital. She is holding her novel and thanking her for helping her husband. She hands Emily her novel with her business card inside, tells her to show her other stories and leaves. Emily looks at the card and reads Mrs. Finch is with a publishing company.

    She begins building her relationship with her father, and her old boyfriend starts courting her again... this time with flowers. She passes up the reunion, finally believing that what other people think isn't important, and believing things are going to be alright.

    As for the sky falling? The runaway Chinese satellite falls in the middle of the Atlantic ocean, away from people.

    Personally, I found this film amusing, touching and well-written. It's a film every struggling writer can identify with; a film with many ironies, a film with many truths -- about writers and the writing life.

    Copyright © 2003 Shery Ma Belle Arrieta-Russ

    Shery Ma Belle Arrieta-Russ is the creator of WriteSparks!™, the idea and story generator for writers. Download your free copy today by going to this link.

    The Authentic Self: Journaling Your Joys, Griefs and Everything in Between by Shery Russ



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