top of page

24 years later, I still hate my ex-husband. Is that wrong?

Updated: Jun 29, 2023

~ Leslie, 60 year-old professor and writer.


You’ve heard it before: “Hate is a strong word.” It’s also a strong thought, especially after a quarter of a century. While it’s important to reach into the editing bin of past scenes and the feelings they evoke, replaying certain ones over and over may not be good for the story you’re in now.

I just watched Steve Jobs (2015), directed by Danny Boyle and starring Michael Fassbender in the titular role of the complex and easily hated Steve Jobs. This is an exceedingly precise bit of drama that uses lots of flashbacks. The final climactic scene sequence of Jobs presenting the new iMac on his return to Apple, is framed with quick flashes– presented like thoughts– of his often ignored daughter Lisa. These thoughts drive him out of his comfort zone and the conference hall to face his college-age daughter in the third act’s critical scene. It is here that he becomes a man, a father, and somewhat whole. And more likable. The crowd erupts with cheers…

Cut to: Leslie the professor and flashes of her unlikeable ex-husband, who she hasn’t seen in 25 years. Or will see anytime soon. In fact, he is 100% absent from her life except in thought.

Confused? I am.

Thinking about the past is like a flashback in a movie and we know what that means: They must be used sparingly and only when they advance the story. Advancing the story with past scenes is a complex operation in the film editing world. This is not just about new information but equally about adding on new layers of emotional complexity to the main character. Flashbacks ultimately lead the hero to achieve a certain level of clarity so that their actions in the present make sense or, conversely, pain them and lead to further internal conflict. (For the pain quotient see Michael Corleone in Godfather Part II (1974), near the end, alone, atop of the mob world allowing himself to relive the day he announced to the family he was joining the Marines.)

Leslie, good movies– and the great movie you’re in right now– should be about new stuff. The here and now. We don’t want yours to be a student film mired so deeply in the past that you have no clue what the present is about. You are sixty, you should have settled into a solid second act by now. And know what it’s about. So, unless you need a dose of ex-husband-hate to inspire some sort of nefarious plan at the university, I would try and stop playing those scenes that lead nowhere. Unless, of course, there is something you’re not telling yourself or us. But that, Leslie, is a different movie. Good luck and remember: stay on story!

42 views0 comments


bottom of page