Adaptation of Kramer vs. Kramer

I failed.
I wanted to rehabilitate you, Joanna Kramer.
Get people to like you.
To understand.
To feel empathy.
I failed.

I had such high hopes.
Create a visual scheme expressing the claustrophobia of being an “object.”
Locked inside a box
Treated like a child.
At the whim of another, your father, your b’aal.
Trying. Searching. Reaching. Pushing.
For a voice.
A unique voice.
An individual voice.
Conflicted. Confused.
When reminded gently and not so gently to stay
To stop.
To tread carefully.

Don’t go into that forest, little red riding hood.
You know what awaits.
The big bad wolf.
He will eat you.
You will be devoured.
Not just you, red.
Do you want to see your children consumed in the fires of your rebellion?

Let your husband say Kaddish for you.
You stay home with your children.
Say brachot with them, l’iyulai nishmat.
That’s what your mother wants.
But. But. But my husband doesn’t like my mother.
Shhh. Joanna
Shhh. Joanna
And yes… Joanna, Hilchot Lashon Hara. That’s a good focus for you. Did you know the Chefetz Chaim was very social, like you? That’s why he chose to work on the discipline of restricting speech.

I won’t transfer my responsibility, my privilege of mourning my mother, to my Baal.
To my brothers.
To my father.
Yitgadal V’yitkadash Sheme Rabbo

Nine months in.
The voice gets more robust with each passing day.
The presence belongs.
The woman stands alone.
Fierce. Committed. Defiant.
Not sorry.
Less sorry with each passing day.

I tried Joanna.
Please know.
I tried.
How I want them to like you. To hear you. To feel you. To experience life through your eyes. Your lens. Your perspective.

My job as a director.
Create a connection between the viewers and the protagonist.

I tried.
You refused to cooperate.
You sit there back straight.
So proud. So erect.
So defiant.

Your body language continues to emit.
Your wild eyes communicate.
Your lips tighten.

Joanna, say you’re sorry.
Joanna, say you feel bad.
Joanna, say you wish you could do better.
Joanna. Please.

In fact. You make things worse. As that could be. I mean, you did walk out on your sixth-month-old baby. A nursing baby. And your husband.
You know how hard it was for your husband. You know he lost his job. You know he depleted his funds, scrambling for childcare.
I want my son back.
That’s all you keep saying.
Why? Why should you get your son back?
Joanna — you are an unfit mother. A cold person. Unfeeling. Uncaring. Unfeminine. Not a woman. Not a good person. Not a person. Who would leave their child?
Say you’re sorry, Joanna.

I want my son back. Are you serious?
Are you aware of your crimes?
You, my dear, will not get your son back.

You and I didn’t work.

Good try, Joanna.
You just further insulted him.
And in the process, it made us love him even more.
Look at his face. His downcast eyes. He’s going to cry, Joanna. You are making this proud man cry.

It was as much my fault.
You reach for his hand.
Why would he touch you? You are toxic. Poison. Contagious.
I was in a difficult place when I left.
I ran.
I got help.
I started therapy.
I’m learning things about myself.

Good girl, Joanna.
I see a little remorse.
Just a little.
Not a lot.
Your back is so straight.
Remains so proud. Still so defiant.
You somehow think your emotional outburst will sway him. Sway us. Gain a small point of favor.
You should have tried harder, Joanna.
Why, Joanna, couldn’t you have tried harder.
A little sweeter.
A little more bent.
A little humbler.

He wants to know.
He is asking.
What did you learn?
Yes. What did you learn, Joanna?
Tell us. One thing. One thing you learned.
Here it is, Joanna.
Say you are sorry. Say you did wrong. Accept responsibility for the disaster you made for your baby’s life, your husband’s, and your family. You know how hard it was being on the lips of everyone in your community.
Of waiting in line at the supermarket and having your neighbor ask about your whereabouts?
How is Joanna?
When is Joanna coming home?
What is planned? This disappearance.
Such a little baby.
Poor baby.

Joanna, we want to know.
What did you learn in all your therapy?
Tell us, Joanna.
Tell this nice, sweet, earnest young man.
Did I mention handsome?
What is so bad?
What is so hard?
He is so cute.
You make such a lovely couple.
Joanna, what did you learn?

I want my son.
That’s what you learned.
The big bad wolf didn’t teach you anything.
Well. We will teach you.
Get out.
Leave. No forwarding address.

Get married. Don’t get married.
Have children. Don’t have children.
Do whatever you want.
Just leave my baby and me alone.

Joanna, you can still save this. You still have a chance. Joanna, please.
Joanna, for your baby.
Fix this.
Make this better.
He loves you. You know how to make this better.
Joanna, it’s terrifying after this.
You will never get your son back. They will never let you see him. Hug him. They will punish you. They can. You know they can. Joanna, I’m warning you. He is getting up. This is your last chance. He is running out of patience.

Please, Joanna.
I’m your eyes and ears.
I’m your director.
I’m on your team.
This isn’t working.
You are incredibly unsympathetic.
He is so earnest. So hurt. So wounded.
So great.
You have a great husband.
Stop being so defiant.
So rebellious.
For your son.
Please, Joanna.
Show us a little emotion.
A little humanity.
You did leave.
Joanna, say you’re sorry.

If you can’t act like a rational human being.

No. No. No.
That was the worst possible thing to say.
Oh my god, Joanna, really.

He is gone. He is off. You lost.
You ruined your chance.
I can’t help you, Joanna.
I can’t get the viewers to love you.
I can’t even get them to feel empathy for you.
You are now alone.

Eat your cookie.
Does this feel good?
Is this what you want?
To be a bitch.
To be unsympathetic.
No tricks. No manipulations. There is nothing I can do to save you.
You refused to bow.
You refused to humble yourself.
You refused to succumb.
You refused to surrender.

Now you are free.
You belong to no one.
Not to your father. Not to your husband.
You are no longer someone’s daughter or someone’s wife.
And yes, Joanna, you are no longer someone’s mother.

Isn’t that why you came?
Isn’t that why you arranged the meeting?
Isn’t that why you called up your husband after eighteen months?
Well, he is a father.
He is returning to his son.
You, Joanna, you sit there alone.
No one’s daughter. No one’s wife. No one’s mother.

He doesn’t care.
We don’t care.
I’m done caring.
I give up.
You gave me no choice.
You are the same character you were in 1979.
Forty years later, we still hate you.
We still wish you would sit down.
Stop being so emotional.
Be good.
Do the right thing.
Step up to the plate and do what you are supposed to.
Stop making such a fuss.
Enough with your emotional outbursts.
Behave, Joanna.

I couldn’t change the text.
That was the instructions for the exercise.
I could have.
In the Hebrew translation, my teacher distributed.
You say sorry.

I can’t accept that change.
That translation.
That breach of who you are, Joanna.
Your agency.
Your bravery.
The rapid beating of your heart.
The fear on your lips. The nervous tapping of your fingers.
Your determination.
Your refusal to accept.
Your desire to grow.
To rise.
To fight.
To have it all. Just not at the same time.
Your courage.
Your faith.
Your release of control.
Your submission to the unknown.

And so I failed.
We told our story.
We expressed our truth.
Our authenticity.
Our imperfection.
Our awkwardness.
Our choice is to keep on swimming.
Our humanity.

Who knows Joanna.
The big bad wolf may not be so scary.
Such a death sentence.
Maybe he likes strong and broken women.
A real woman.

Who knows?