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Ossus Library Index Drama Movie Index

CITY OF ANGELS

Directed by Brad Silberling (1998, Warner Bros.)
Starring Nicolas Cage, Meg Ryan, Dennis Franz, and Andre Brougher

An angel falls deeply in love with a human doctor, and discovers that he can actually do something about it.

 

 

5 stars

October 1st, 2000 on TV

 
   

Wow!  Beautifully realized, with wonderful acting, settings, direction, and dialog.  The whole experience felt surreal.

The beginning of the movie was especially wondrous, after the scene with the dying girl.  Not to say that the very opening scene wasn't great -it was.  It established Seth for who he was, his compassion and his strength.  And what he does for others.  But after that, we get to see all the angels working in this city.  There must be thousands, if not millions.  All dressed alike, all staring serenely out into nowhere.  Or into everywhere.

It is established in wonderfully dialog-sparse scenes that the angels are responsible for sudden calming that can lead to insights and  reduce panic.  At the beach, they hear music, gathered together for the sunrise.  In the library, they help people to figure things out, to study, and sometimes, they just listen.  They like to stand up high, and look down on humanity from the top of billboards, skyscrapers, and tall trusses.  For they are not human.  Humans cannot grow wings and turn into angels.  But angels can fall, and turn human.  That is the gift God gave to all, human and angel.

And Seth feels the need.  He is in the operating room to bring a dying man to heaven, when the doctor sees him, just a momentary feeling that she was being watched by an angel, but she dismisses it.  Seth, however, cannot shake the feeling of love he feels at this woman, and returns to her again and again.

Finally, he decides to appear to her.  Being with him has a magical effect on Maggie, and she wonders where he is from, and who he is.  She longs for him, and she doesn't know why.  And he appears to her, again and again.  And they talk, about nothing, and about everything.  He offers her with his company what her boyfriend cannot.

And so when her boyfriend proposes, she leaves town, not knowing what to do.

Another patient of hers, who did not die on the operating table, also spends a lot of time with Maggie, because she saved his life.  And so Seth comes along.  Nathaniel Messenger, whose name should have been a really big hint when we first met him, is a fallen angel.  He shows Seth his wonderful life, with his wife, kids, and grandkids.  And when Maggie tells him that her boyfriend proposed, he decides that he had to fall, as well.

When he shows up at her door, soaking wet, scratched, and beaten, she is overwhelmed with love.  They spend a great night together, Maggie showing him the pleasures of the flesh for the first time.  The next morning, she wakes early, so she can show him some of the very best tastes in the world.

But when the camera focuses too long on her riding her bike (I noticed at the very beginning that she never wore a helmet), we knew something was wrong.  A truck comes out of a blind curve, she stretches her arms wide, embracing the world that seems new to her, and taking her hands off the handlebars...

And Seth knows immediately that a life has been taken.  She dies in his arms.

Seth grieves, because the love that they knew was so strong, yet it was also still in its infancy.  He spends time with Nathaniel, silently.  And there is a message in the show when Seth asks Cassiel, his angel partner, if her death was punishment for him.  Cassiel replies, "you know it doesn't work that way."  Asked if he would do it all over again, the beauty in the movie shines through when he answers that he would.

He makes his way to the beach, and is finished his grieving.  He watches the sunrise (or set?), along with the angels that he can't see, but whom he knows are there.  They watch him as he jumps into the waves, body surfing, and for the first time, feeling the water around him.

This movie was a joy to watch.  The directing was superb, the music accentuated the heavenly mood, and the acting was, as I mentioned, surreal.  Afterwards, I felt completely relaxed, and even though I grieved for Maggie and Seth, I believe that the movie ended the way it had to end.  They both made sacrifices, and I'm not sure who paid more dearly.

 
   

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