Before Gwynnie coupled and “consciously uncoupled” from Chris Martin, launched her lifestyle blogzine Goop, before she said “I am who I am. I can’t pretend to be somebody who makes $25,000 a year” and before she revealed that she eats junk food naked in front of a mirror so she can see where it goes (!!!!!!) she played the rather wet but unoffensive Helen in 1998 romantic comedy Sliding Doors. A film which consists almost entirely of nude/brown matte lipsticks and 90’s fashion which makes it seem a lot more current in trend than it actually is.
If you haven’t seen the film and would hate me for spoiling it for you, close this window now. If you’ve seen it or don’t really care about the spoiler, Sliding Doors is a film which alternates between two parallel universes. The different universes are based on the two paths that Helen’s life could take depending on a not so pivotal everyday event: whether or not she manages to catch a train on time (the bane of most people’s public transport woes). Both instances cause extremely different outcomes in her life.
In both universes Helen is fired from her London based PR job and feeling truly feeling down and out, she heads out of the office to catch a train home to her writer boyfriend (and cheater), Gerry. In the lift she drops her earring which is picked up by a stranger, otherwise known as James (otherwise known as “that guy from Cold Feet”).
In the first universe she catches the train before the doors slide shut and makes it home to find her boyfriend and his ex girlfriend in a sexual clinch. She dumps him (HOORAY!), sets up her own PR company(HOORAY!), finds herself a new guy, James (who just so happens to be the guy from the lift), finds out she’s pregnant with James’ baby, finds out James is married, has a wobbly sobbing and emotional breakdown on a bridge in the rain, gets hit by a car, loses the baby and then dies in James’ arms. Not so HOORAY.
The second universe she misses the train, gets mugged whilst catching a cab home, arrives home just after her boyfriends ex has reached climax and slinked out of the house (BOO!). She begins working in a local cafe to make ends meet as her boyfriend has nooners in their bed with his bit on the side. She has an inkling that he’s having an affair and even goes to lengths to follow him in the hopes of catching the pair of them out. She doesn’t need to try, his bit on the side orchestrates a surprise meeting and reveals that she’s pregnant with Helen’s boyfriends baby. As is Helen. She then falls down the stairs, loses her baby and winds up in hospital. But she lives (HOORAY!), dumps Gerry and faces the prospect of making it on her own.
On leaving the hospital, the elevator doors open and there stands James, the guy from parallel universe number one who she fell in love with and they echo the scene from the beginning of the movie where he picks up her dropped earring, thus concluding that maybe it was always fate for them to meet and fall in love.
In both universes, Helen finds out about Gerry’s infidelity and breaks up with him, and in both versions she meets James.
The moral of the story?
This movie teaches us several life lessons. The first is that although going through heartache and painful experiences can be awful and overwhelming, they can also teach us a lot about ourselves and show our resilience and determination (and they can attribute to why you find yourself eating pickles out of a jar at 2am along with a cheeseboard and drinking cheap wine from the local shop). These experiences show that even when things seem like they can’t get any worse (dream job lost, philandering fella, miscarriage, bad eyebrows), things will get better. You just need to ride the storm so to speak.
When you’ve experienced heartache you need to take some time to regroup. In the first universe, Helen somewhat jumps out of one relationship with Gerry and straight into another one with James in which she spends a few days moping over both James and Gerry after she bumps into her ex for the first time. This unconcious insistence to run straight from the arms of one lover to another is a common relationship mistake. In the second universe, although Helen has only just split up from Gerry she meets James when she’s in a place where she’s got her shit together and has found the strength to say goodbye to someone who was a huge part of her life, not in a state crying at a bar with the image of another woman riding her fella.
This movie also teaches us that we can’t control the outcome of life, no matter how much we may try go. The only thing we can control are our actions and the choices we make in our own lives. All we can do is continue to trust that there is something we are supposed to learn through the process of letting go.