by Bonnie Anderson and Dan Webster
‘Hello, My Name is Doris’ is a poignantly funny movie. Sally Field is perfectly cast as the older spinster who begins to find herself late in life.
Doris Miller (Field) is a seemingly wacky, 60-ish woman who has cared for her mother at the expense of her own unrealized dreams. In fact, she is so understated, that it is only in a fit of desperation that she speaks of her “could haves” and conveys the sadness that lurks beneath her life of heart-felt responsibility.
For all of her 69 years, Sally Field is able to convince us she’s never had much fun in her life. Those of us who recall seeing her in the TV series ‘Gidget’ and ‘The Flying Nun’ know better, of course.
But here she is working in New York City and living on Staten Island, which everyone knows is the forgotten borough. The film opens in a church at her mother’s funeral. After some innocuous words from the priest we realize Doris has devoted her life to caring for her mom.
Doris honestly portrays the loneliness that can set into the soul of a person living alone as she ages after a lifetime of deferred hope. She has a funky unstudied style that attracts some younger co-workers, including the younger man who is a new co-worker and the recipient of Doris’ crush. Her vintage wardrobe costuming is just weird enough to be attractive to the young set. The film demonstrates the lack of any deep quest for understanding inspired between the age genres.
What ensues is a classic tale of family systems with a touch of maybe a little psychological shortcomings. But her friendship with Roz (Tyne Daly) is tender and tough at the same time. Her discovery of social media, electronic music, and the real world she has pretty much avoided, leads to self-discovery – which always comes with pain.
Doris is a character study that rings painfully true to many as our culture ages. The film mixes sadness and hope in unlikely scenarios that give us a glimpse into the vulnerabilities of what it means to be human, young, and aging alike.
This is a delightful film for anyone who has wondered about aging, romance after 60, or is interested in the generational divide. The editing provides perfect time to elicit laughter as well as empathy, or sympathy depending upon your age.
Discovering who God created you to be is the goal most people have. This is a wonderful “coming of aging” story that plays out beautifully.
Bonnie Anderson is a very active lay leader in her parish, diocese and in the wider Episcopal Church. She is an experienced community organizer and lives in suburban Detroit. Dan Webster is an Episcopal priest in Baltimore, Maryland and a former broadcast news executive. But don’t expect only east coast urban perspectives here. As it turns out, they both grew up in Southern California. They blog about films and faith at Faith Reels