Author Raymond Carver’s life was literally saved by a romance. Through the love of poet Tess Gallagher, he was able to find recovery from alcoholism and go on to publish some great fiction. However, his story is rare, and for a lot of active alcoholics and drug addicts, romance can be a dangerous thing. This is a theme explored in 28 Days.
I cite this movie in my chapter on Pro-Single Movies, so it has to be mentioned here. Sandra Bullock plays Gwen, an alcoholic writer who, after stealing a limousine on her sister’s wedding day and crashing it into a house, is forced into rehab, where she confronts her demons.
Gwen starts out the film coupled. Her boyfriend Jasper (Dominic West) is as big an alcoholic as she is, which makes their codependent relationship work. And she’s nearly kicked out of the center when she drinks during one of Jasper’s visits. But she’s given a second chance, and as she starts to realize how alcohol has affected her life and her relationships (and starts becoming open to sobriety), a rift starts to develop between the two of them.
There’s also somewhat of a romantic subplot involving another patient, Eddie, a baseball pitcher (Viggo Mortensen). The romance doesn’t really “go anywhere,” but their interactions provide Gwen with a mirror to see her own assets, such as in a nice scene when Eddie shows her how to throw a strike. After a fight between Eddie and Jasper (who naturally accuses Eddie of putting the moves on Gwen), things are awkward between him and Gwen. When Gwen leaves the center, Eddie advises Gwen that Jasper is dangerous for her sobriety. And that’s how it concludes; I didn’t get the impression they’d be involved after that, which was relief. I have a cousin in recovery, and from what I’ve heard, those “rehab romances” usually don’t end well.
When Gwen returns home, Jasper tries to rekindle their romance, and after a scene in a restaurant where it’s clear that he doesn’t respect her wishes to live a sober life, she gently leaves him for sobriety. The end. And I walked away from the film thinking she’d stay on the path, single or partnered. The movie’s message that her sobriety is more important than romance is powerful, and 28 Days is worthy for telling it. If Gwen had stayed with Jasper, she most certainly would have relapsed, which might have led her to jail or an early grave. It’s not perfect; I get the sense that very few people in rehab look as polished as the patients we see in the film). But it’s pro-singlehood message is powerful: in certain cases, romance can be deadly.