Movie review: “Griffin and Phoenix”

If you are in a bit of a sentimental, romantic mood, this is the perfect movie. There was a 1976 version starring Peter Falk and Jill Clayburgh, but the 2006 version we watched starred Amanda Peet and Dermot Mulroney in the title roles.

Jeff Griffin, diagnosed with a virulent form of cancer, and told he has 1 year or at most 2 to live, feels his life disintegrating. Instead of allowing himself to drown in sorrowful self-pity, he decides to take life by the horns and to enjoy every moment that is left. He attends a college class on death and grief, where he meets a young woman, Sarah Phoenix.

They discover that they share a slightly ironic and self-deprecating sense of humour and, amazingly, they fall in love. He doesn’t tell her he is going to die of cancer, but she finds out… and it turns out she is dying of cancer too. They realise that they can give each other the unconditional support and love each needs most at this time. And they also spur each other on to be a little wild and unpredictable, to do the things they’ve always wanted to do.

I thought the symbolism of their surnames was quite amazing – underscored by the fact that the two usually addressed each other by their surnames: A griffin is a legendary creature with the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle. It is said that they are symbols of divine power and guardians of treasure and of the divine. It is often used in heraldry.

A phoenix in ancient Phoenician mythology and in the myths derived from this, is a mythical sacred firebird with a beautiful golden tail and red plumage. At the end of its lifecycle, it builds itself a nest of cinnamon twigs, which it sets on fire, until both nest and bird are reduced to ashes. A new young phoenix is born from the ashes. (Remember Fawkes, Professor Dumbledore’s phoenix in Harry Potter?) According to myth, the bird can regenerate when it is hurt or wounded, and it is thus immortal.

Despite its topic matter, this was a really uplifting movie. (Just keep a box of tissues handy.) And it was a reminder to be grateful for every day one gets to spend with the man or woman one truly loves.

Because today really could be the last.

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For other movies we’ve watched in May, click on:

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