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Seven Minutes In Heaven
(1986)

Director: Linda Feferman  
Cast:
Jennifer Connelly, Byron Thames, Maddie Corman


The more familiar you are with my writing, the higher the probability that you have concluded that I am a lone wolf of sorts. When it comes to entertainment, my tastes more often than not go for the unknown and unconventional. When it comes to relationships with others, you might think that I am a loner as well. Well, I do spend a lot of time alone - I am often very comfortable with just my own company. But that's not to say that I have absolutely no relationships with anyone else. When you think about, practically everyone has in their lives some kind of regular contact with other people. For those few that don't, if you look at their lives you'll see that in their past they had some sort of relationship with another person. Our first relationship starts right at the point of conception, where we subsequently grow inside our mothers for nine or so months. Then subsequently for the majority of us, we spend years with our parent or parents, making some sort of relationship. Some of us even have siblings that grow with us along the way, and that we have relationships with as well. Although we may grow close with the people in our immediate family, there is an inevitability that comes up every now and then - the loved ones in our family sometimes drive us crazy! We all have different minds, even if we're related, so it's inevitable that the clashing of different opinions and thoughts will happen in our families. I had my own occasional problems with the people in my family, ranging from my parents making me go to bed at an earlier time than the other kids my age, to my brother always being on the family computer whenever I wanted to experience the high technology of our Apple IIc.

Even before we start to go to school, we get the idea that we won't always get along with the people in our family. Understandably, one might think at an early age that once you start to go to school, you will strike up new relationships with children your age that will be strong and positive, possibly more so than the ones you have in your home. But it doesn't take long to discover that making and keeping friendships as a child can consist of just as much struggle and rejection as adults find in their relationships. You have to find some kind of common bond with someone else, for one thing. And you have to put up some kind of regular effort to maintain the friendship. It can be a struggle to do so at times, and may make you go crazy as you struggle with various peer relationships. But then a new challenge comes as you reach your teenage years. During that time, you start to notice the opposite sex, and you probably start to want some kind of attention from them. Personally, I wasn't that interested in wanting a girlfriend when I was in high school. I knew even back then that the vast majority of teenage romances never work out, so why would I want to waste money and time on a girl that more likely than not I would never see again after graduation? But at the same time, I remember that when I was a teenager I didn't always think logically, so I can understand why relationships with the opposite sex are a big deal to many teenagers. At the same time, I think that many of these teenagers would agree that the opposite sex can drive you crazy! As someone once said, men are from Mars and women are from Venus, and these different minds and expectations will clash eventually, which can lead to heartbreak or disappointment.

Young love and first love are filled with struggle and awkwardness. As an adult, it can be fascinating to observe such relationships, because it not only reminds us of our first loves, but we see how the participants are not quite adults, still having a lot of aspects that we associate Seven Minutes In Heavenwith children. Unfortunately, when it comes to feature filmmaking that attempts to portray opposite sex relationships among teenagers, there aren't a lot of realistic portrayals. There are crude sex comedies like Porky's, and there are portrayals that show teens that are rich and spoiled. I prefer teenage movies that are not only realistic but are thoughtful, showing teenagers with some smarts. That's why I was attracted to Seven Minutes In Heaven, because that's what it promised on the back of its video box when I found a copy. The events of the movie center on a teenage girl named Natalie (Connelly, A Beautiful Mind), who at fifteen years old has learned to grow up fast, due to the recent death of her mother and the fact her father is away from home for long periods of time. Natalie is best friends with a girl her age named Polly (Corman, The Adventures Of Ford Fairlane), and good friends with a boy named Jeff (Thames, Johnny Dangerously). One day, Jeff has an argument with his stepfather, and after getting no support from his mother, he leaves home and heads to Natalie's home for a place to stay. Though initially reluctant, Natalie allows Jeff to stay at her home while her father is away. While you may think a serious kind of relationship starts between the two - indeed, the whole school soon starts thinking so - this does not happen. Natalie and Jeff remain just friends. In fact, Natalie starts showing romantic interest in an older student named James (Alan Boyce, Permanent Record) who suddenly starts showing interest in her, and Jeff is interested in starting something romantic with Polly. But Polly has fallen head over heels for a baseball player (Billy Wirth, The Lost Boys) temporarily in the area that she happens to meet. Can Natalie, Jeff, and Polly sort out all their tangled relationships?

From that plot description in the previous paragraph, you have probably concluded that Seven Minutes In Heaven does not have a plot that follows the typical teenage romp from the 1980s. My revelation that the movie got a PG-13 rating probably wipes out any thoughts that the movie went along the route of movies like Porky's. While watching the movie, I can't once recall any mention of controversial four-lettered words. There is a very brief instance of nudity, but it doesn't come from any of the teenagers (it comes from a sexy movie two of the teenage characters are watching in one scene.) And while there are a couple of scenes involving teenagers getting to first or second base, not once do we see them having sex, nor is there any suggestion any of the teens have ever had sex. The movie's portrayal of teenagers dealing with the issue of sex is one I think is more realistic than that found in most modern day movies. There are still a lot of virgins out there, for one thing. That's not to say that these teens don't have sex on their minds - for example, the opening scene has Polly wondering out loud to Natalie on the strange ways she has heard penises work. And we see these teenagers kiss and cuddle several times. But at the same time, they are clearly thinking about other things in their lives besides "doing it". They are interested in keeping and maintaining friendships and their own personal activities in their minds. Natalie, for one thing, is working on becoming some sort of political leader when she grows up. It's implied that they think that sex is a big step forward, and they want to have it in the right situation and with the right person. It's a good thing they are reluctant, because several times when things get hot and heavy, they discover it's not the right time or the right person. But we in the audience understand. They are hormone-filled teenagers, with minds that are not fully matured. Making mistakes and finding out facts the hard way is what happens when you grow up.

Clearly, the teenagers in Seven Minutes In Heaven are not the completely stupid and selfish teens you often find in major Hollywood studio films. They are a lot more palatable. That's not to say that they are not without fault. When Jeff runs away from his stepfather, you might think that the stepfather is shown to be a real unredeemable jackass. However, the movie shows us that in the seconds before Jeff runs away from home, the stepfather is trying hard to tutor Jeff with his schoolwork, but Jeff acts somewhat rude and disrespectful to his stepfather's attempts at help. However, in the end he does learn that he has to find common ground with his stepfather. Later, Polly is seen deceiving her parents so she can take a trip to New York in order to see the professional baseball player she has briefly met but has already given her heart to. The first instinct is to call her behavior irresponsible and downright stupid. But when you think about it, didn't you do stupid stuff when you were growing up, stuff you thought was crystal clear at the time but now you wonder just what was going through your head? I certainly did, so I could understand why Polly did what she did. Love can make you do stupid things even as an adult. The human behavior found in this movie is really real. You'll be able to identify with it even if you are no longer a teenager. It ranges from Natalie having a quick fantasy when she is in Washington D.C. and is talking to a slimy politician, or when Polly thinks in one scene that Natalie has lost her virginity. (Polly gets very angry at Natalie, but we see Polly is really angry at herself for not being as lucky as she thinks Natalie has been.)

The screenplay by director Linda Feferman and co-writer Jane Bernstein (both of whom have oddly never been associated with another fiction film) is the real star of this movie, but certainly a lot of the credit for the movie's success has to go with the no-name (at least at the time) youth actors. Unlike most other teenage-themed movies, the principle actors playing the teenagers in Seven Minutes In Heaven are not played by people who are in their 20s. Connelly, Thames, and Corman were still in their teens when the movie was being made. This automatically gives this movie a real feeling of authenticity, because the characters look like teenagers we know in real life. And because the principle actors are played by teenagers, they know how to act like teenagers. As the characters go through various experiences in their lives, there is that feeling of awkwardness that was all too familiar when we in the audience were growing up (or to those that are still growing up.) More importantly, even when their characters are doing things that we may not approve of, they almost always make their characters come across as very warm and likable. Polly, Jeff, and Natalie are people that you would like to be in your social circle, even if you are an adult. You will really hope that they will find happiness at the end of the movie. That ending, by the way, is a very realistic one. It doesn't tie up everything nice and neat, but it shows that the characters are headed in the right direction and will probably become happy adults. Though I know it's extremely unlikely, I have hope that one day in the future we will get a sequel to Seven Minutes In Heaven. I would really like to see these characters again, to see how they handle the responsibility of being adults.

(Posted May 5, 2014)

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See also: My First Mister, Pink Nights, The Zoo Gang

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