Amicable Break Up CinemaTherapy (and BiblioTherapy)
October 6, 2012 12:18 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for book and movie titles for stories (fictional or not) which show amicable break ups.

Basically, I know I have seen such but I have the absolute suckiest memory for book and movie titles. I routinely go through an incredibly convoluted process of "I know that red headed actress was in it and I can't think of her name. But! She is married to that Hispanic guy ...and... I can't think of his name either. Crap! But, wait, he was in a movie with Someone Extremely Famous whose name I actually recall. God, what was that called?" And I start googling filmographies and backtracking through that convoluted logic chain.

I am so not up for that. So rather than try for like four hours to splice together my swiss cheese for brains bits of memories and come up with, say, three titles, I thought I would ask ya'll. What books and movies (or other media: plays, music videos, songs?) do you know of which depict genuinely amicable break ups? Bonus points for "circumstances beyond our control tore us apart" subthemes.

posted by Michele in California to Media & Arts (31 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Prime with Uma Thurman and Meryl Streep.

I immediately thought of Bridges of Madison County because there were circumstances beyond their control, but they weren't "officially" a couple, they were having an affair (Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep).

Oh god, for some reason, I can't get away from Meryl Streep (love her), but also kinda sorta The French Lieutenant's Woman, which I think is an excellent film AND book.

These are all more along the lines of they really want to be together, but end up not being able to for whatever reasons, mostly out of their control.

If those are along your lines, I'm sure I can come up with some more.
posted by foxhat10 at 12:48 PM on October 6, 2012

Best answer: Sabrina (I haven't seen the original, but have seen the most recent one - 1995 - with Greg Kinnear and Harrison Ford). The Sabrina (Julia Ormond) and David (Greg Kinnear) relationship.
posted by Sassyfras at 12:58 PM on October 6, 2012

"Enchanted"'s breakup was amicable, though not a central theme.
posted by dadici at 12:59 PM on October 6, 2012

Not sure if this counts as "amicable."

Lu You's (陆游) famous poem Phoenix (Hair-)Pin, describes an anguished "circumstances beyond our control" divorce. You was in love with his cousin Tang Wan (唐琬) and married her at age 20, but his mother didn't like Tang Wan and, after You and Wan had been married for years, forced them to divorce.

Lu You and Tang Wan went on to remarry others, and hadn't seen each other for many years. When they met again, You's anguish over the wrongness of their separation drove him to write the poem Phoenix Pin. He composed the poem on the spot and painted it on the wall at Shen Garden. Wan read the poem and wrote her own in response.
posted by zippy at 1:02 PM on October 6, 2012

In 'Sleepless in Seattle', Meg Ryan's character amicably breaks up with her fiance when she realises she's in love with Tom Hanks.
posted by meronym at 1:02 PM on October 6, 2012

Annie Hall
posted by estherbester at 1:04 PM on October 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

Kissing Jessica Stein was pretty amicable in the resolution as I recall.
posted by dadici at 1:07 PM on October 6, 2012

The main character in the Australian TV series Rake has several continuing relationships with women having broken up with them. For instance, his ex-wife is still his therapist.
posted by carsonb at 1:11 PM on October 6, 2012

Breaking Upwards is about a couple who realizes that they're outgrowing each other and should break up, but recognize that breaking up abruptly is difficult, so they go through a gradual breakup.
posted by urbanlenny at 1:11 PM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Their Eyes Were Watching God - Janie's first marriage was amicable, although the marriage itself was pretty uncaring and arranged.
posted by Sassyfras at 1:12 PM on October 6, 2012

The Family Stone (bizarre but amicable)
posted by sallybrown at 1:14 PM on October 6, 2012

posted by fuse theorem at 1:28 PM on October 6, 2012

Best answer: You might find some examples in TVTropes 'Better as Friends' category.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 1:56 PM on October 6, 2012

posted by macadamiaranch at 2:05 PM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Sassyfras, I am not sure leaving someone and running off with someone else while your husband is desperately trying to figure out how to keep you there counts as an amicable split. Logan isn't exactly throwing Janie a going-away party.

The latest episode of Glee deals with this. Although you never mentioned wanting TV shows as examples.

There's also Before Sunrise, which isn't exactly a "break-up" but they do separate and agree to meet a year later, despite being in love.
posted by guster4lovers at 2:27 PM on October 6, 2012

Response by poster: My first thought on this topic was "Out of Africa", where the main character remains friends with her ex husband in spite of affairs and other drama. When she wonders why, he remarks "Well, we started as friends."

I also vaguely remember a movie about a couple who divorce because he concludes he is gay. They still share custody of their child (I think) and have other things in common like both being fans of some obscure author or poet or some such. They just can't work it out because he's gay. But I have no idea what that movie was called and I can't remeber who played in it or anything. (Thus today's AskMe.)

Looking forward to seeing other nominations. I will clarify it doesn't necessarily have to be the main plot. I don't think that was the main plot of "Out of Africa". But it impressed me nonetheless. Most breakups are pretty vindictive/blamey.
posted by Michele in California at 2:49 PM on October 6, 2012

Jack and Sally in Woody Allen's "Husbands and Wives".
posted by davebush at 2:51 PM on October 6, 2012

Celeste and Jesse Forever (8/2012) begins with an amicable divorce (still "best friends"). I haven't yet seen it, but based on Ebert's review (follow the link) I suspect that they will, at the very least, be friends at the end of the movie.

Is it OK if the break-up(s) occurred prior to the story? The husband and wife at the center of Don Delillo's White Noise both have several ex-spouses. It's been awhile, but IIRC, they often had a houseful of company--various exes transferring/visiting their children--and everyone got along just fine.
posted by she's not there at 3:16 PM on October 6, 2012

Sorry, I was referring to movie. The first marriage being arranged and Janie asking Logan what he'd do if she left. He was more or less, "meh." So she left. Yeah, I agree it stretches the "amicable" angle, but there did not seem to be any animosity, either.
posted by Sassyfras at 3:18 PM on October 6, 2012

Response by poster: I am not sure how to reply to "break ups prior to the story". I am trying to envision how that would be therapeutic. Thoughts are welcome on why a specific example of that could be therapeutic/helpful to watch.
posted by Michele in California at 3:47 PM on October 6, 2012

If you consider Lost in Translation a romance (and I do), then Lost in Translation. The circumstances beyond their control were their other relationships, their age difference, their lifestyles, the geography...
posted by mochapickle at 3:59 PM on October 6, 2012

In Serendipity the two protagonists are in relationships with perfectly nice other people but which aren't right for them. I liked the way they didn't feel the need to villainize the others in order to create the breakups.
posted by themanwho at 4:08 PM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

2nding Breaking Upwards. I loved that one.
posted by kellybird at 4:51 PM on October 6, 2012

Best answer: Re White Noise/breakup(s) prior to the story—I remember almost nothing of the story except for the fact that the exes were on good terms and being responsible, involved parents. It was a very busy household, people always coming and going, the model of a "blended family". At the time, I was newly divorced with 2 kids in grade school, dating a divorced father of 2 teenagers, and hoping to eventually reach such a peaceful state.

In my memory, the exes are basically always in the background, but it is entirely possible that the relationships with the exes/model "blended family" idea was introduced with a few paragraphs that just happened to resonate with me. I'm sorry to be so vague, but I can't find my copy.
posted by she's not there at 6:45 PM on October 6, 2012

Response by poster: I have thought of another I like: "A walk in the clouds".

Small potential spoiler ahead:

The divorce (or anullment?) is a really brief scene. I like the scene because the wife gives it to him straight and does not drag things out over fear of how he will feel. Then she calls out the window after him "Are you okay?" So although she was upfront about it, she actually was concerned about how it would impact him. I thought she handled it bravely and reasonably diplomatically without being neurotic.
posted by Michele in California at 7:55 PM on October 6, 2012

I did see "Celeste and Jesse Forever," and it's an excellent movie. It's a real achievement for Rashida Jones.


Ultimately, there is an amicable breakup, but that is the product of a parting which is neither entirely amicable nor entirely a breakup.
posted by Sunburnt at 9:24 PM on October 6, 2012

500 Days of Summer. As movies must, the ultimate breakup is preceded by a much less present breakup.
posted by Sunburnt at 9:32 PM on October 6, 2012

Best answer: I think the movie you are thinking of (where the couple breaks up because the husband is gay) might be Making Love. The poet is Rupert Brooks.
posted by that possible maker of pork sausages at 9:59 PM on October 6, 2012

Response by poster: Yes, I believe that is correct. I was thinking it had Harry Hamlin in it. Triple score!!!
posted by Michele in California at 10:40 AM on October 7, 2012

Cybill has two ex-husbands who frequently reappear in the eponymous character's life.
posted by mippy at 6:36 AM on October 9, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks all. Marking "resolved".
posted by Michele in California at 1:25 PM on November 6, 2012

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