Sliding Doors (1998) poster

All this time I’ve been taking the wrong message from Sliding Doors.

The movie depicts the parallel paths of Helen (Gwyneth Paltrow) on the day she’s fired from her PR job—in one universe, she catches the train on her way home and finds her boyfriend Gerry (John Lynch) in bed with another woman.  In the other, she misses the train by seconds and remains unaware of his infidelity.

Quite helpfully, the first thing catch-the-train Helen does is get a pixie haircut so that we can easily tell which universe she’s in as the film bounces back and forth.

Pixie Helen meets sexy stranger James (John Hannah) on the train, opens her own PR firm, spends her time laughing and basically forgets that Gerry exists. 

Long-haired Helen eventually finds out about Gerry’s infidelity, but since she never got on the train, she’ll never meet James, the true love of her life.

Both universes end with Helen winding up in the hospital after life-threatening tragic accidents.

We leave Pixie Helen with James at her bedside.  Long-haired Helen kicks Gerry to the curb, walks into the elevator at the hospital and meets…James!

I always took away the heartening message that though the details may change, in the end you’ll always end up where you’re supposed to be.  Your destiny will find you even if you miss the train.

But that’s not what the movie is saying at all!  Because on my most recent viewing, I saw what I’d missed (or repressed!) before.  While James sits by Pixie Helen’s hospital bed, her eyes drift closed.  I thought she was just resting.  But in the background, the EKG quietly flatlines.

Pixie Helen dies!

How did I miss this?  What does this mean? 

The message has gone from, “everything will work out in the end” to “if you’re happy, death is imminent!”

I’m just not sure where to go from here.

Next thing you’ll be telling me there’s no Santa Clause.

Or that Ticketmaster cancelled the public sale of Taylor Swift tickets.

Helen dies in Sliding Doors (1998)

This is part of my Movies I’m Grateful For series, running daily through the month of November. 

Other films include: Splash | New Moon | The Lucky One | Thelma and Louise | Katy Perry:  Part of Me | Crazy Rich Asians | Under the Tuscan Sun | Terminator 2 | Moulin Rouge!How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days | Practical Magic | Schindler’s List | Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol | Stardust | The Man in the Moon | The Others | Little Women | Cruella |