In my work as a volunteer matchmaker on an internet site, I often see self-descriptions of people that are totally bland and uninteresting. One girl writes: “I love to read, listen to music, and I enjoy following sports and spending time with friends.” I wrote a note to her advising her to share something about her goals in life, what moves her spiritually, what makes her different from someone else. I find that men do not want a shallow mate. They want to marry a person who thinks deeply and who will have something to say to them about important life issues.
I was reminded of this as I watched Mr. and Mrs. Smith, an action-saturated comedy about two assassins who marry one another and do not reveal their professions to each other. Over time, they have little to say to one another except bland platitudes, and the film opens as they are participating in a marriage counseling session to rejuvenate their union.
We learn that John and Jane Smith first met in Bogota, Columbia where they both were being pursued by the authorities. It was love at first sight and soon after they married. Working for different firms, they conceal their true vocations and lead a life in which duplicity is the norm, each lying to the other whenever they leave the house on a mission. Things come to a head when they both are assigned to eliminate the same target. Almost killing each other, they discover each other’s true profession. At first, their professional goals come first and they attempt to kill each other; but love asserts itself and in an epiphany of honest affection, they reunite as a couple and rediscover their original passion for each other.
John and Jane soon find out that their employers want them dead. Assassins who marry one another are a liability and the Smiths become a target for a veritable army of assassins. How they cleverly evade their pursuers and untangle the web of lies that they have woven over the five or six years of their marriage provides a humorous and fascinating narrative of marital therapy taken to extremes.
Judaism places a high value on preserving marriage and insuring good relations between husband and wife. So important is this that even the name of God can be erased from Scripture in order to sustain the marriage bond and to create a peaceful household. For example, when a woman is suspected of adultery, she is required to participate in a ritual that demands the erasure of holy text to restore her good name. The Sages all agree that for that lofty purpose, God’s name can be blotted out. The sanctity of the home is paramount.
Tensions inevitably arise in a marriage where two people are sharing every day together. One can always find something to complain about. But that is not what marriage is all about. On the contrary, marriage is about finding the good in another person, and not finding fault and constantly criticizing the other. In truth, it is much easier to love someone from afar because that love is not tested daily as it is in marriage.
Mr. and Mrs. Smith reminds us that the bedrock of a successful marriage is a combination of unconditional love, honest communication, and a focus on the future instead of the past. In a moment of crisis when they are both facing possible annihilation, Jane tells John “There’s nowhere I’d rather be than here with you.” That’s a message that resonates with John, who knows that whatever the outcome, he and his wife possess a shared destiny.