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Friends, "The Big Chill," a movie directed by Lawrence Kasdan

Subthemes: Boy Friends and Girl Friends, Movies and TV, Time to Develop

A movie about the reunion weekend of a group of seven friends, fraught with revelations, reevaluations, joy and pain. Directed by Lawrence Kasdan, The Big Chill stars Tom Berenger, Glenn Close, Jeff Goldblum, William Hurt, Kevin Kline, Mary Kay Place, and JoBeth Williams. The movie highlights core aspects of friendship.

Watch some scenes to remind you of “The Big Chill”.

Poster of The Big Chill

Boy Friends and Girl Friends: Erotic attractions flash through The Big Chill. The blurred, shifting, and hard-to-articulate line between close friendship and romantic entanglement bedevils many pairs. Platonic relationships between the sexes happen and can continue warmly for years, not necessarily because suppression, repression, or social constraints block physical consummation, but a weekend of wine, marijuana, and mature insights can unleash desires. In that regard, some people lack a sexual drive or a mode of expressing it. At other times, one side welcomes closeness and intimacy but not sex, thank you; the other side wants both; or more likely in the real world that lacks such clear-cut binary choices, the desires of two people for each other wax and wane or transmute. Sometimes the relationship has a bundle board, sometimes a sleeping bag. One side wants to be “just friends, not lovers.” The Big Chill abounds with the fraught possibilities where friendship blossoms into sex and where it can wither.

Movies and TV: The Big Chill collects seven college friends (and one girlfriend of a deceased college friend), but other than the number of friends it is hardly unique in the visual media. Given the ubiquity and importance of friendships, the media exploits them for innumerable plots in every variation; almost no one is alone on the screen. Seinfeld, Cheers, Sex and the City, and The Big Bang Theory come to mind as TV series rife with friends. Movies, of course, routinely build on friendships: some cover two buds as in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Midnight Cowboy, Thelma & Louis, and Brokeback Mountain, or a small coterie, as in The Breakfast Club, Dead Poets Society, Good Will Hunting, or Chariots of Fire. Unexpected close companions feature in Intouchables and The Wizard of Oz. Innumerable plays revolve around friends, such as Grease, as do books (A Separate Peace or The Three Musketeers). The variations and vicissitudes of friendship spreads as vast in literature and the arts as the number of examples.

Time to Develop: The characters in the movie met each other a dozen or so years before but they mostly kept in touch before the funeral of a close friend brought them back together. We often find that our farthest-back friends remain our most steadfast friends. They knew us before we created our images, they liked us for ourselves before promotions, responsibilities, and renown warped us, they know we put our pants on one leg at a time, they’ll come runnin’ if we call. To develop long-lasting strong bonds, friends need to spend time together, over time. As life flows along, the rocks avoided, the tranquil sections glided, and the white water navigated bind long-term friendships.


We watch the unfolding of complicated feelings tangled by time and misconceptions. An example of so many TV series, movies, plays and books, The Big Chill’s popularity comes from how this set of attractive young-adult friends grows closer, settles into different configurations, and understands themselves better during the illuminations of their weekend together.

If you are interested in other thoughts on the concept “Friends,” consider other subthemes that don’t fit as directly to the poem, painting, rock song, and movie written about in this series. For an overview, this article explains Themes from Art or click on the navigation bar, “About.”

We invite you to read about other movies discussed on this blog, and their themes. Here they are:

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