Monique Ocampo recently joined the Patheos Catholic channel and is also a big fan of The Last 5 Years. In the guest post below, she discusses what she learned from Cathy and Jamie’s relationship.
Time is a big theme in “The Last Five Years.” The original stage production shows a large clock on the set. It’s shown in “The Schmuel Song,” symbolized by Jamie’s story and the watch he gives her. Throughout the musical, Jamie can only think of the present moment while Cathy can only think of the future. It’s ironic, then, of how they remember things: Jamie starts in the past, while Cathy starts in the present and in between we see how their perceptions and treatment of time affected their relationship.
The two of them start out wanting to move on from their pasts. A common misconception in relationships is that once we found “the one,” we can finally put the past behind us. Or, swinging in the other extreme, the past keeps us from ever finding someone who can accept us. Both misconceptions can be seen in “Shiksa Goddess” and “I Can Do Better than That.” Jamie wants to date anyone who isn’t Jewish and Cathy wants a life that’s more exciting than the sleepy suburban town she grew up in. Both of them are running away from their pasts, but the insecurities they had in the past are still there with them.
The two of them only bring up the past when they fight as seen in “See I’m Smiling” and “If I Didn’t Believe In You.” This is another relationship problem. “Love keeps no record of wrongs” says 1 Corinthians 13:6. Once Jamie becomes a bestselling writer, the two of them have fights about constantly going to parties and Cathy being constantly left out. As Leah pointed out in a previous post, Jamie doesn’t offer the emotional support that Cathy wants, but neither of them are helping things by holding grudges and being impatient with each other.
Speaking of impatience, Jamie and Cathy both have major impatience issues. (Yes, this is the pot calling the kettle black. I know impatience issues when I see ‘em.) Jamie is partially impatient towards Cathy, wanting her to be as successful with her acting as he is with his writing. He also hates not having any room to breathe in his relationship. (“All that I ask for is one little corner/One private room in the back of my heart/Tell her I found one/She sends out battalions to take it and blow it apart.”) This stems from the misconception that relationships have to be all-consuming. Cathy wants all of Jamie and Jamie wants to lose himself in somebody. The problem is that neither of them took any sort of time to sort things out.
This leads into the major problem of the relationship. The relationship moves way too fast. They sleep together very early in their relationship, possibly on their first date. They move in together after dating less than a year. They marry a year later at most. Their marriage falls apart just as quickly, with Jamie having a wandering eye almost as soon as the honeymoon ends and Cathy being physically apart from him, living in Ohio. The two of them are never seen taking things slow. When you’re young, time seems like nothing and yet it’s everything. We want perfection and we want it now and the biggest misconception that many people (including Cathy and Jamie) fall for is that time has no factor when it comes to relationships.
I’d add that we get much more of a sense of the kind of future that Jamie and Cathy each want for themselves than the future they envision together. Their individual desires aren’t necessarily incompatible, but we hear more about their desires to succeed in their careers than we do about what they intend to be to each other. We hear a couple negative definitions, when Jamie or Cathy describes the kind of future they’re trying to avoid, but one of the only references to their projected life together (“I want to be your wife / I want to bear your child” in “The Next Ten Minutes”) isn’t really referred to again, possibly because children were a part of the marriage that was scheduled for the general future, requiring no action or preparation in the present.
Don’t forget, The Last 5 Years is available to rent or stream, so you, too, can enjoy it and then send me a guest post. My previous posts on the movie are and “Asking a Lover for Too Limited Support” Ellery Weil also contributed a guest post: “The Story of Shmuel and Tailoring Support” and I wrote a follow up: “Can’t I Love You Into Being Happy?”