I remember watching 'Falling in Love' in 1989 in Sangeet theatre in Hyderabad. I also remember completely falling in love with the movie that has two artistes who are my favorites - Robert De Niro and Meryl Streep. Also the late 1980s was a good time for the romantics.
It is a simple story, so simple and straightforward that I now wonder how it actually got made. Frank (Rober De Niro) is an architect or an engineer, who works in a big city, possibly New York. Molly (Meryl Streep) also works in the big city (a job that consists mostly walking about the streets to and from the station). Both have certain similarities which are important to know. Both take the same train to New York from wherever they live. Both have friends with dysfunctional relationships - Frank's friend is on the verge of divorce and Molly's friend has short term lover boys with whom she pushes off on vacations. Oh, and both are married. Frank has two children and a wife. Molly has a husband and a dying father.
The two meet in a book store on Christmas Eve, shopping for gifts. While checking out, their gifts get mixed up as they try to clear the way, thanks to the mess that Frank's massive shopping creates. They realise the mistake when the gifts are opened at home, bump into one another on the train, remind one another of the funny incident. They feel drawn towards one another, Frank conjures up a couple of meetings, asks Molly out for coffee, meet a few times, talk about their families, kids, ailing fathers, coffee, meals etc. Once they find a place to themselves but Molly does not sleep with Frank, possibly because of the guilt. Molly's father dies that same evening and she probably assigns his death to her guilt and stops meeting Frank.
He takes up a job in distant Houston. But not before both spouses find out that their spouses seem to be happier without them and accuse them of being happy and in love (not really, but they get angry, Frank's wife slaps him as well!). Just before leaving for Houston Frank calls Molly one last time and asks her to come to meet him. Molly throws all caution to winds, tells her husband she has to meet him, and almost gets killed while trying to speed past a railway crossing. The car, scared out of its wits refuses to start ever again until the movie is done. Frank goes away. Molly goes home probably in a taxi.
The story moves on to another Christmas eve when Frank is in town to sell his house. His wife has left him and gone to Denver to stay with her parents. His friend is now getting married again, God alone knows why. Molly is alone, her husband having left her. Her disapproving friend who never wanted Molly to be happy and in love, also had found a husband - hopefully Frank's friend.
And again in the same bookstore the two meet, Frank and Molly, have a short and awkward conversation where both seem to realise that the other is alone. They go away. Molly takes the train. Suddenly she finds Frank, an expert on catching trains just before the doors shut, also on the train, presumably looking for her and they end up hugging one another and kissing one another. One can only hope that Frank does not get slapped again when he meets his wife.
I am amazed at how simple the story was. My two heroes were perfect, though I felt De Niro has a suspect kissing technique and was not a good kisser at all. But they were both brilliant in showing their love for one another - passion is another thing altogether - and I ended up smiling happily many times. I loved a few things Meryl Streep says. Once when she meets her friend after breaking off from Frank she tells her - 'Maybe I should have slept with him and it would have been easier.' And another thing she says is - 'It was the one thing that feels so right. Everything else seems so wrong.' I'd watch it again for these two and nothing else though I sincerely hope they (Frank and Molly) find someone else for the passion angle. They are great at the coffee and walking around scenes and showing an almost teenage angst to a love that happens to them.