The Green Ray
In January, I called my friend R. She said she had been having a hard time; everything seemed futile. Attempting to break out of her spiral, she’d thrown herself into the world, looking for closeness. No one had picked up. Her descent was gaining speed.
This was supposed to be a review of two recent movies: The Call, a thriller from 2020, and Ayka, a drama from 2018. Both feature a recurring, threatening phone call from the villain to the protagonist. Instead, I watched a movie I first saw with R three years ago. We’d been sitting in my kitchen when my phone rang: my aunt had died. R and I walked to the park and lay in the cold grass. A little later, we went back to the house, swaddled ourselves in blankets, and put on The Green Ray. Marie Rivière plays Delphine, a lonely woman in her early thirties searching for intimacy but met with disappointment at every step. As friends turn her down and lovers reject her, the abyss between self and others widens. Her vulnerability deforms into anger. Then, in the last ten minutes of the film, waiting in a train station on her way home from a failed vacation in Biarritz, Delphine sees a tall man wearing a Mickey Mouse shirt. He inquires about the book she’s reading. In a burst of abandonment, she asks if she can join him on his trip. Finally, someone picks up.
Later that afternoon, Delphine walks along a rocky beach in Saint-Jean-de-Luz with Mickey Mouse man, the wind pulling her blouse open. She sees a promontory and rushes toward it. The day before, eavesdropping on some old women, she had learned about le rayon vert, a rare optical phenomenon that can occur at sunrise and sunset: when just a tiny bit of the sun’s light is present, certain conditions can cause it to refract, resulting in a fleeting green flash. Never longer than two seconds. Easy to miss. Good luck for those who see it. Delphine and this stranger, by whom she feels unexpectedly comprehended, sit anxiously atop a perch of yearning bedrock, waves crashing beneath them, the sun rapidly falling from the sky, waiting for the green ray to call. Delphine starts to cry. Their eyes widen. I won’t tell you what happens.