TWO STARS - ENTERTAINING
In the serendipitous world of romantic relationships many come to believe in fate. Different from providence in which a benevolent Creator works within our lives to help us find the love for which we are created, fatalism is the belief that all of life is fixed and everyone and everything moves toward an inevitable destiny. For such believers, fate brings a soul mate into their lives and even the most illogical or unreasonable actions will remove them. This view, in all its amazing ramifications is presented in Peter Chelsom’s “Serendipity.”
The two persons destined for each other are the beautiful Sara Thomas (Kate Beckinsale) and the disarming Jonathan Trager (John Cusack). Having happened into the same store in search of the same Christmas gift, Sara and Jonathan reach for the same and final pair of cashmere gloves. Instantly connecting, they playfully surrender the gloves to the other as they surrender their hearts as well.
But what makes this seminal romance different is that Sara is an ardent believer in fate. After spending a romantic evening together that clearly bonds them far beyond their expectations, Sara is about to give Jonathan her phone number when an unusual event whips the paper from their hands and swirls it amongst the trash on the street.
Bowing to her belief that this is a sign that cannot be ignored, Sara creates a set of impossible circumstances that must be aligned if they are meant to be together: she puts his name and number on a five dollar bill and immediately spends it. She then proclaims that if that bill comes back into her possession, then they are meant to be together. In a similar way she puts her name and number inside a used book that she sells in one of the hundreds of bookstores in New York.
The implications of Sara’s belief become obvious when both Sara and Jonathan lose each other that night and for several years to come. Rather than seeing life as a journey under the watchful care of God and taking each opportunity as a moment of choice, by acting on their attraction and choosing to remain together, Sara has surrendered her life into the hands of fate. Such surrender reduces her to a pawn within the events of an empty universe devoid of divine intervention.
The solution to her empty faith requires the film to create the circumstances a few years later where both Sara and Jonathan are simultaneously preparing for marriage only to be compelled to seek out one another before taking that final step. To suggest such a path is required of every couple and marriage in order for soul mates to find each other turns the film into more of a romantic fairy tale than a significant relational film.
If all of life is a fixed tale told long before we are born, then the illusion of freedom and choice is all the more appalling. But if each person is free to respond and our choices create the paths of our future, then romantic encounters are moments of opportunity not to be ignored or taken for granted, but seized as unique experiences.
The providential care of God often breaks into our lives in moments that seem serendipitous but are in fact the hand of Love at work. This is a spiritual awareness we are wise not to ignore but to cherish.