Now, Voyager

Movie: Directed by Irving Rapper.

Inciting Event: On the brink of a nervous breakdown, repressed spinster Charlotte tells the story of her mother’s domination to a sympathetic psychiatrist. In the face her initial resistance (refusing the Call to Adventure), he convinces her to come stay at his sanitarium for a while—which is the first turning point setting up the main conflict to come.

Note, too, how the Inciting Event doesn’t just set up the main conflict at the First Plot Point, but also frames the entire story. The main conflict will be Charlotte’s relationship to Jerry, but the story is about her recovery and growth into an empowered woman.

First Plot Point: After being released from the sanitarium, a made-over but still vulnerable Charlotte meets the unhappily married but nobly chivalric Jerry on a South American cruise. His kindness helps her take her first steps into the Adventure World of life as an independent woman.

First Pinch Point: Shortly after telling Jerry the secret of her lonely past, the car they’re touring in wrecks and they’re forced to spend the night together on the mountain—where they fall in love and begin their earnest but doomed affair.

The pinch points in this movie are deliciously well done. The primary antagonist in this story is Charlotte herself—her doubts about herself and her strength to stand on her own. This inner antagonism is represented outwardly in the shape of her tyrannical mother. And yet the mother is not the central figure in either of the pinch points—which traditionally exist to emphasize the antagonistic force’s threat.

Rather, the pinch points both feature Charlotte’s relationship with Jerry—particularly focusing on all the reasons they can never be together. In the beginning, Charlotte leans on Jerry for strength, so the big question of the pinch point is: Can she be strong on her own without him? Within the context of the story, their love affair encapsulates why the stakes could not be higher for her.

Midpoint: Charlotte returns home, where she must confront her mother’s attempts to return her to her control. This is an incredibly wonderful Midpoint on so many levels. Fundamentally, it is all about Charlotte’s Moment of Truth: will she or won’t she return to the person she was and submit to her mother’s unreasonable demands? There is real doubt about which direction she will take. She chooses to reject the Lie her mother has always told her: that she can’t survive on her own. She does it beautifully and realistically, in a real attempt to maintain good relations with her horrible mother.

Secondly, the Midpoint represents her sure turn from the uncertain reactions of the first half to the decided and empowered action of the second, as she pursues a social life, even finding a beau.

Second Pinch Point: Just as she is on the brink of accepting a proposal of marriage from a man whom she does not love but with whom she believes she can be reasonably happy, Charlotte encounters Jerry at a party. Their reunion rekindles their love, but they reaffirm all the reasons they cannot be together.

Once again, the pinch point emphasizes the importance of Charlotte’s relationship with Jerry—but also its ability to keep her from fully spreading her wings into personal independence.

Third Plot Point: After rejecting her beau’s proposal, Charlotte quarrels with her mother, who dies of a heart attack. Broken down and grieving, Charlotte returns to the sanitarium.

Beyond the symbolic use of death in a way that decidedly moves the plot, this is a wonderful moment in its presentation of Charlotte as teetering between two choices, two lives: either she will finally step forward into the Truth of her independence, or she will relapse into weakness and dependence.

Climax: At the sanitarium, Charlotte meets Jerry’s daughter Tina, with whom she strongly identifies, since their story as youngest children unwanted by their mothers is very similar. Finding a new reason to live, Charlotte convinces the doctor to let her take charge of Tina’s recovery, even taking her home to live with her.

Climactic Moment: Charlotte and Jerry meet once more at her house. They agree to maintain a platonic relationship for Tina’s sake, so Charlotte can raise her as “their” child.

Resolution: The film closes with the beautifully famous line: “Oh, Jerry, don’t let’s ask for the moon. We have the stars.”

Notes: As should be obvious from the above structure, Charlotte is following a Positive Change Arc.

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