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The ending of All Creatures Here Below really screwed me up, and it’s been festering in my brain for about a week now. (Technically, I’m already screwed up, and this just raised the issue. The coincidence that it was released on my birthday in 2019 is rather odd.) As I mentioned in a prior, spoiler-free post, I rented it, saw it, had to watch it a second time. This movie strikes the precise emotional chords for me. YMMV.
Before you read further, please note that this is one of those few movies that I’m glad I saw spoiler-free. If you’re at all spoiler-averse, you should stop reading now and watch the movie. If not, you’re robbing yourself of a process that made the movie even better for me. I watched it once, tolerating the typical humdrum character and story development necessary to start any film, was hit with the twist towards the end (which I won’t spoil here), and then was hit with the ending. At that point, I knew I had to watch it again, which completely changed how I saw the start of the movie. It was no longer humdrum; rather, almost every moment became disturbing and/or important.
The two main characters, Gensan and Ruby, are bad people. They commit crimes, both minor and heinous, throughout the movie. I should be rooting for their downfall, but as I’ve pointed out, this movie demonstrates how complex issues can get. While I don’t waiver one bit on the position that they should both be in prison, the screenwriting (David Dastmalchian) and directing (Collin Schiffli), and acting (Dastmalchian and Karen Gillan) leave me conflicted. I feel bad for the characters, probably because I know that the emotions they feel are ones with which we all sympathize. They deserve to be in prison because of their actions, but how they emotionally respond to their own actions, as well as how tough their circumstances are, are relatable. Some of you may even share those circumstances.
Most of us can appreciate the finality of death. Once a person dies, that’s it. Even if you’re religious, it feels like they’re gone forever. This inspires a very common sentiment: “What I wouldn’t give for just five more minutes with [person].” Depending on the relationship, you may want to spend that five minutes kissing, hugging, or just talking to that person, telling them how you feel about them or sitting back and enjoying their wisdom one more time. Regardless of what you need from that five minutes, you need that five minutes.
In the end scene, Gensan is living in what should have been those five minutes. In his twisted mind, he had to kill her but not at that precise moment. Even for a guy who was so emotionally stunted, I think he, like all of us, would appreciate just a few more minutes with her, but he’s the reason he doesn’t have those five minutes.
Moreover, despite Ruby’s mangled corpse being out of view, we all know what Gensan sees before him. However, the director (I think that’s where the credit lies) makes sure we connect emotionally with that scene. Ruby falls to the ground after the initial (brutal) strike. She gets hit again, and we see only her right hand clutching the grass. Then she’s hit a third time, and her hand is limp. On the fourth and final strike, it simply bounces a bit from the impact. We see her death occur without the blood and guts, but we can’t ignore the brutality of it. Gensan is looking directly at the product of his own handiwork knowing that he didn’t have to do it before spending five minutes saying a much-needed goodbye.
Ruby gets to have those five minutes in a sense, because through her letter to Gensan she tells him how she feels about him. She saw him as her “knight in shining armor,” but he failed her in that regard in the worst way imaginable. Gensan must now be overwhelmed by his own betrayal.
And all of this could have been delayed five minutes.
It May Be Even Worse
As if all of that isn’t bad enough, Gensan may have to relive this pain over again. Let’s say he gets exceptionally lucky and serves only twenty years in prison. Assuming he’s thirty years old, he’s out at fifty, with on average (statistically speaking) twenty-six years left to live. On the day he’s granted parole and knows he’s getting out, something’s going to hit him: If he could have gotten lucky, perhaps Ruby could have as well. She could have also been getting out of prison at some time, so they could have decades of those “five minutes” together if not for his short-sighted actions.
He’s going to have to relive that same pain again, knowing that he robbed himself and her of that time together, as well as everything else that goes along with life. How could you live with that?
Everyone has their pain, and I’m no exception, but my greatest pain dwarves the rest of it, perhaps defining me. Several movies have occasionally tugged on that particular heart-string, but none struck that particular chord as hard as this movie did. Perhaps that makes me like this movie more than you will, but I still encourage people to watch it. Even if you’ve just spoiled it for yourself, there’s a twist I haven’t spoiled, and the ending should still be a powerful watch for you.
I give this movie an A+.
America’s Sugar Addiction
There was one other thing that was disturbing about the movie, but in a funny way. To avoid spoilers, I’ll just say this: Ruby, c’mon! You’re still watching TV and eating a Baby Ruth? 😊
Depending on how it’s presented, I sometimes don’t handle death in movies particularly well.
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