Freeze Frame #5: Million Dollar Baby

One of the most emotionally wrenching movies I’ve seen. I felt drained when it got over. It doesn’t put a step wrong anywhere during its running time. The story is about a woman who wants to become a boxer, and the crusty old man who becomes her trainer, her mentor, her friend, everything. There’s a moment when Maggie says, “I’ve got nothing but you, Frankie.” And he replies, “Well, you’ve got me.”

As it turns out, it’s a prophetic statement. Maggie gets injured in a freak accident that leaves her paralyzed. She doesn’t want to live this way, and wants to die. And she wants Frankie to help her do that. He isn’t for it, obviously, but he can also see her point of view.

There’s a phrase in Gaelic that Frankie uses to call her – Mo Cuishle. Her Irish fans pick up on it, and they chant it before every match she is in. He won’t tell her what it is, though. She tells him she could look it up. He agrees that she could, but they both know that she won’t – she’d rather he told her what it means.

Right at the end, Frankie decides to help her die, and goes to her hospital room in the middle of the night to pull her plug. And just before he does it, he looks at her and says, “Mo Cuishle means: My darling, my blood.” And the camera stays on her face for a moment while he sets about disconnecting her life support. She’s got tubes all around her, most of her face is covered by a breathing mask, so all you can see is her eyes. It is enough.

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