"Human pain does not let go of its grip at any one point in time," Robert Veninga writes in Gift of Hope: How We Survive Our Tragedies. "Rather it works its way out of our consciousness over time." The grip of pain and the liberation that comes when it is released is the theme of The Prince of Tides, directed and produced by and starring Barbra Streisand.
In an Academy Award-caliber performance Nick Nolte plays Tom Wingo, an ex-high school football coach struggling with a failing marriage and middle-age malaise. After his twin sister tries to kill herself in New York City, Tom travels there to see her. Dr. Susan Lowenstein, her psychiatrist, wants him to shed light on their family life. As Tom talks about the past, he reveals a terrible family secret which lies behind his depression, his brother's untimely death, and his sister's suicide attempts.
In adapting Pat Conroy's bestselling 1986 novel for the screen, Streisand has shifted the emphasis from the toxic Wingo family to the brief love affair between Tom and Dr. Lowenstein. Nonetheless, the film does convey the ways in which we are deeply shaped and influenced by our families. Best of all, The Prince of Tides proclaims the value of coming to terms with past pain as a way to reclaim our lives.