Meryl Streep is undeniably amazing. She holds the record for the most Academy Award nominations (17) and the most Golden Globe wins (8). She went to Yale. She’s (still) married and has four kids. She has the unique and uncanny ability to become any character: a Nazi death camp inmate, a nun, a divorced wife, an editor-in-chief, Julia Child, Margaret Thatcher.
Last weekend I saw “The Iron Lady,” and while it didn’t get the best reviews (the movie, not Meryl’s performance), I thought it was a wonderful and an important film. As the credits rolled and I reflected on what made the film so great, I realized it is about how you see film in particular, and perhaps life in general.
Three layers of how I saw it:
1. Meryl Streep. As already discussed, she is brilliant. Her ability to locate the humanness within a character; her ability to investigate and portray what life is like for someone else. It’s a discipline we would all do well to strive for more often.
2. The format. To my dad’s dismay I am not a history buff. I did not know a single thing about Margaret Thatcher before this movie (seriously, though…). So often we educate through the lens of dates, events, and themes. Why not people? Why not learn history, or even math, through the biographical stories of the world’s real-life characters?
3. The theme. The end of life – the “ebbing of a life” as Streep referred to it – is so rarely portrayed in the media. Here we have the privilege and the burden of seeing the debility, delicacy, and dementia of aging and dying. It’s tragically beautiful. If we don’t give thoughtful credence to how life ends, how can we expect to live it well? And so I believe this is a storyline, these are images, that we need to respectfully confront more often. Our culture must learn to reconcile with endings (of all sorts), reflecting on the trauma, drama, glory, jokes, and love of life, work, and relationships.
It was a pleasure to sit in this theme, this life, and this story for 105 minutes of Meryl Streep on screen.