The main plot revolves around the passionate love affair between the two lead characters. Jackson appears to have finally found meaning and purpose in life by fostering the talent of the woman he loves. But in the process of making Ally a famous singer, Jackson sinks deeper and deeper into his alcohol addiction. At first it seems as though he is able to overcome his addiction. The romantic love they share appears to break all his weaknesses and liberate him from his self-destructive tendencies. But this does not last long, he keeps falling back into his addiction over and over again and finally, even though the love they share is genuine, his addiction gets the better of him.
What is surprising about this storyline is that it breaks the usual stereotypical love story narratives. In most movies, true love between a man and a woman is the ultimate victor. It breaks all chains and overcomes all complications. It is the final saviour. There are never any issues that true passionate love cannot solve in the end. It always wins! But in this story, we do not see that victory of love. Even though they truly love each other and Ally does all that she can to bring him out of his addiction, she is unable to. Romantic love appears to have hit a dead end, it fails.
Though there are many types of love we all share in the world, nothing is more glorified than the erotic love between the sexes. Yes, there are movies and works of art that exalt the love between a father and son, a mother and her child or even the love between friends. But all these put together does not compare to the amount of art that is dedicated to romantic love. The history of art is a testament to the position that romantic love has had in the hearts and minds of human beings throughout the ages. Many of these works of art portray romantic love as the highest pursuit a human can ascend to. The famous Hindi phrase encapsulates it well, ‘Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya’ (Why should we be afraid, if we have loved). Romantic love induces an intoxicating feeling that can make a person feel that he/she can brave through all adversities.
But is this really true? Yes, we can make a good case that romantic love can give a sense that it can overcome all odds. It has the power to make people feel totally confident, they think that they can break through barriers that come their way. But having strong feelings towards a particular challenge and actually overcoming the challenge are two completely different things.
Any married person knows that for their love to hold together through all the ups and downs of life, it takes much more than romantic love. Romantic love always promises something much greater in the beginning than it is able to deliver in the end. It is after all a feeling. And feelings are, whether we like it or not, temporary. And it definitely cannot liberate us from our worst tendencies as the movie so clearly shows. And so, the movie leaves us with the question that if the seemingly greatest of loves in the world cannot liberate us, then what can.
The Alcoholic Anonymous programme which was founded in 1935 has been the most effective recovery programme. Millions from around the world have come out of the terrible disease of alcoholism through the programme. One of the initial steps of the programme is to give oneself to a power greater than oneself. A power that is capable of restoring the person and saving them from his/her self-destructive tendency. It is the basic requisite for a person to come out of alcoholism. In the movie, we see Jackson does in fact give himself to a great power, the power of romantic love. The love for another human being is definitely greater than the love for a substance like alcohol. Jackson repeatedly tries his best to allow his love for Ally overcome his love for alcohol. But to expect love towards another limited human being to liberate a person from a deep-rooted addiction is to overestimate the capacity of what human love is capable of. However great the love between two human beings it cannot liberate us from the depths of our vices. We greatly underestimate the influences within us that draw us to these self-destructive substances in the first place. A good case can be made that almost all of us have some sort of addiction, even if it might not appear too serious for many of us. We all tend to repeatedly do things even when we know that it might have devastating consequences. We wonder why we are not able to come out of these problems, even though we deeply desire to come out of it. Some think that their love for their spouse will pull them out of their pornography addiction, others think that the love for the children will pull them out of their gambling addiction, there may be some who think that the love for their family will pull them out of their addiction towards career and success. But sooner or later they all begin to understand that none of these can bring them out of their deep-seated afflictions.
The Apostle of Jesus Christ, John says that ‘God is love’. That is an astonishing statement. John says that God is the very source of love. All other human loves do reflect that divine love in some way or the other, but is not the source. Only the love of God has the power to pull us out from our deepest maladies. God’s love is the only power that can bring a person salvation, any other type of love might temporarily bring relief, but will ultimately fail. The eternal love of God is the only love that can touch the deepest level of our being and liberate us from our innermost afflictions. It is the greatest power of all. A power that comes to us from the cross.