One wouldn’t think a film made in 1962 (and in black and white) would be pro-single, but one needs to find the messages where they can. In Days of Wine and Roses, Jack Lemmon plays Joe, a public relations executive, who meets and marries Kirsten, a secretary. They go through an escalator-style relationship, dating, moving in together, marrying, having a child.
Joe also loses a bunch of jobs, they lose their house, dignity, self-respect. That’s what tends to happen when drinking becomes the priority in one’s life.
The film takes time to build up toward when Joe and Kirsten hit rock-bottom. At first, everything seems innocent. But we get a glimpse of what I like to call couplethink in one scene where the two are in her apartment. He sprays the entire place with insecticide, the smell of which manages to piss off all of her neighbors. On her own, she might not have done that. But she does find the neighbors’ reactions amusing, which is a clear calling card of a narcissist.
But the pro-single message really happens when they try to get sober. One could argue the film is a public service announcement for Alcoholics Anonymous, as Joe starts to get better after attending meetings and finding a sponsor, someone who guides him individually through his sobriety. Kirsten tries to do it on her own and fails. At one point, while they’re living with her father, she disappears for a few days and is staying in a hotel room, wasted out of her mind. Joe tries to reason with her, but ends up falling off the wagon after four months of sobriety.
Joe winds up in the hospital, and his sponsor, Jim, tells him, “You gotta stay sober, even if it means staying away from Kirsten.” The film doesn’t mention whether or not Jim is married, and that’s irrelevant. What’s most important in this film’s eyes is that Joe stays sober, spouse or no spouse. And at the end, Joe loves Kirsten, but he’s not about to compromise his newfound sobriety for his marriage. He makes a final appeal to get her to join him, but she can’t do it. The last shot is of her walking toward a bar while Joe looks on. It’s clear he’s choosing a better life, and for him, it has to involve singlehood.