Film and TV

‘Harold and Maude’ (1971)

Yesterday evening my mum and I decided to watch the cult romantic comedy ‘Harold and Maude’ together. Neither of us had seen it before, and we were both thoroughly enjoyed it.

‘Harold and Maude’ tells the story of a brooding young man, Harold (Bud Cort), who is preoccupied with death – his hobbies include faking suicides and attending the funerals of strangers, and he drives a hearse. One day, at one of these funerals, he meet a cheerfully existential old woman, Maude (Ruth Gordon), who also enjoys going to funerals for fun. They form a beautiful friendship, as Maude teaches Harold the joys of art, music and living a carefree existence, not bound down by sorrow or expectation to conform to society’s rules. This friendship slowly turns into love, which is not well-received by those around them. However, despite the unusual nature of their relationship, Maude helps Harold to learn how to make the most of his life.

I couldn’t keep the smile off my face for the duration of the whole film. Even the ending, which would seem sad if the overall tone of the film had been different, was touching and beautiful. I absolutely adored the character of Maude. I found her attitude to be inspirational and her utter disregard for acting “normal” (for example, she routinely steals cars because she thinks it’s important for humans to learn that their existence is not defined by material possessions, she uproots trees from cities and replants them in the forest, and wears bright yellow to funerals) made me laugh. Two of the most beautiful lines, which absolutely sums up the essence of the film, are the last two:

Harold: “I love you.”

Maude: “Oh Harold…that’s wonderful. Go and love some more.”

Although Maude has been called a “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” by critics, and I can see where they’re coming from, personally I think she doesn’t totally fit this negative stereotype. She’s a well-developed character, and yes, while her main function in the film is to get Harold to see life in a more positive way, she is not without her flaws. She’s simply an optimist who wishes to share her worldly wisdom and hope. It’s quite sad, in my opinion, how in films you cannot have an optimistic, quirky female character without her having this derogatory label thrust upon her.

I would highly recommend ‘Harold and Maude’, it is absolutely sublime and I could easily watch it again and again. The soundtrack, by Cat Stevens, is also incredible. It sounds silly, but when I was watching it, I felt this overwhelming sense of hope, and momentarily, I felt that things would get better. It was amazing to have this relief for my depression, even if it was only for 88 minutes.

My overall rating? 10/10.

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