There is a famous law that may well apply in physics, but certainly doesn’t in relationships — opposites don’t always attract. They might in some areas, but definitely not in love, as The Way We Were so convincingly confirms. And if you look around you, you will see couples that only have a few things in common but still claim to be deeply in love with each other. Some of them will indeed make it through, but most of them will undoubtedly break up after a short while, being left with nothing but the memory of the way they were.
In the mid ’30s Hubbell meets Katie in the university. He is the most handsome student there, with an obvious gift in writing, whereas Katie doesn’t exactly fit the description of the popular girl. Jewish, left-winged, passionately fighting for human rights and possessing character rather than looks, she’s certainly not the right match for Hubbell. When they meet again as World War II ends, they start going out. Hubbell is a man that has had everything handed to him easily, while Katie is a woman who had to fight hard to earn her place in the world. He loves her passion, she loves his smooth manners.
A few months later, they decide to get married and move to California, where Hubbell can pursue a career in screenwriting. It is then, that the first problems start to become visible, followed by the first rows. Katie is continuously the one motivating Hubbell, strongly believing in his talent and extraordinary gift in writing, and trying to make him see that he can do a lot more than just write for silly sitcoms. Hubbell, on the other hand, desires a simple life, one in which everyone gets along with everyone else, without arguing, without trouble. When they reach their breaking point, all those things that used to attract them to one another, now drive them apart. Hubbell starts seeing someone else and Katie gets pregnant just as she manages to come to terms with the fact that her marriage is over. They stay together until she gives birth and then they go their separate ways.
The Way We Were is one of those half-romantic movies that portrays its love story with such perfect realism, that one has no choice but to fully immerse in the plot and deeply relate to one of the two characters. It’s great evidence on how some things can only work in theory, and on how those things we love at the beginning turn to be exactly why we hate one another in the end. What the film manages to demonstrate brilliantly is how different women and men are, how differently they think or deal with situations. Katie may be impossible to be with, overconfident, and with a know-it-all attitude, but she believes in her husband more than anything else. Hubbell may be beautiful and easygoing, but he lacks the passion that made their relationship fun in the first place.
Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand take on the two main roles and manage to make this movie one of the most emblematic of its genre. Directed by Sydney Pollack, The Way We Were received two Academy Awards and was nominated for seven — leaving its mark in cinema history thanks to its great performances and brilliant screenplay.