“Everybody lies,” says Emma Thompson. “Nobody tells you the truth.”
When we were growing up, many of us learned about love from the sugar-sweet world of Disney. Those fairytales made it all seem so simple: they suggested that, one day in the future, we would lock eyes with our Prince Charming or Cinderella and immediately know that they were The One. Then, after a brief and perfect courtship, we’d succumb to the heady powers of true love’s first kiss and bam! Before we knew it, we’d be married and living happily-ever-after.
And, while it’s all too easy to suggest that this narrative is a Disney trope, it’s one we see everywhere: it seeps into our popular culture by any means possible, via TV shows, books, films, tabloids, greeting cards and social media. Everywhere we look, we are being sold this idea that our soulmate is out there waiting for us – and that the great checklist of our lives is nowhere near complete until we find them, marry them and have children with them.
And Emma Thompson is bloody sick of it.
The actress is currently on a media tour to promote her latest role in The Children Act, in which she plays a respected judge who is forced to decide a case involving a teenage boy who is refusing a blood transfusion on religious principle. However, it soon transpires that her marriage has been affected by her demanding career.
“What we see in the film is the relationship between my character and [Stanley Tucci’s] crumbling, and then a new one starts to grow. Which is what happens in all long-term relationships,” Thompson explained to Vulture.
Then, keen to serve up a dose of cold hard reality to readers everywhere, she added: “Or if it doesn’t, someone’s in denial. [Because] if the relationship hasn’t changed for long periods of time then the people in it are probably serving a facsimile of what the relationship used to be.”
Thompson continued: “People change and life changes and you can’t have the same relationship as when you first met. When people say, ‘Our relationship has been bliss,’ I just go, ‘I don’t believe you.’”
In her typically candid fashion, Thompson went on to address her frustrations with the ‘perfect romance’ that is packaged and sold to women on a daily basis.
“I [used to be] angry about the lies and fairy tales that were sold to young women – that romance was the be-all and end-all,” she said. “Now I’d say that what happens after happy-ever-after is where love begins.”
“Falling in love is an exalted state,” added Thompson, “but it is a temporary state, and I suppose what I was taking issue with was the idea that this temporary state was supposed to last. Nobody told us it doesn’t…. everybody lies. Nobody tells you the truth.”
It is not the first time that Thompson has shared her own frank and no-nonsense perception of marriage: back in 2014, she suggested that long-term couples take a “sabbatical” – or “beneficial break” – from their relationships.
“I wonder whether this isn’t the way forward for a lot of married couples?” she said at the time. “You look at it and think that maybe every marriage should have a kind of a sabbatical, that couples should be forced to take a break from each other every so often, if just for a year or so. It’s actually not a bad idea.
“You need to go off perhaps, although not to be with other people. I think that would make things very difficult: all that free love stuff has been tried and tested and doesn’t work and has been proven to make relationships very, very tricky. But I’m sure a sabbatical could work if it were done properly.”
It was a quote which Thompson’s husband Greg Wise, whom she met while filming Sense and Sensibility in 1995, was (unsurprisingly) confronted with during an interview with the Daily Mail.
He responded simply: “Actors have sabbaticals all the time because you’re away working. There are always going to be periods of time when one of you is having a completely different life to the other.”