Why Hook Is The Saddest Story About Unrequited Love

Photo: Tristar/Amblin/REX/Shutterstock.
Hook, the movie that asked, "What would happen if Peter Pan grew up?" lives largely in the memories of millennials as the film where Rufio dies. While that scene is definitely sob-inducing, it has overshadowed the real tragedy of the film — two stories of unrequited love, all the more emotional because, beyond fantastic trappings, they're so relatable.
The first lovelorn woman Peter Pan (Robin Williams) leaves behind is Wendy, played in the film by Maggie Smith, her advanced age compared to Peter's middle age a pointed reminder that she chose to grow up decades before the lost boy. It is Wendy who must explain to the grown-up Pan that they were, at one time, children together, before he watched her age, and eventually decided to leave Neverland behind when he fell in love with Moira, Wendy's granddaughter. When you get past the creepy oddity of losing your first love to your grandkid, Wendy's confession, woven within her story, is heartbreaking, as she tells Peter, "I half expected you to light on the church and forbid my vows on my wedding day. I wore a pink satin sash. But you didn't come."
Wendy has to recount a shared history to a man who has no recollection of it. Such true amnesia isn't common, but realizing the memories you hold so dear, the moments you return to again and again, have long ago stopped occupying any space in the other person's day-to-day life is definitely relatable. For Wendy, Peter will always be the one who got away. To Peter, Wendy is the girl he can barely remember.
And then of course, there's Tinkerbell (played by Julia Roberts in an appropriate pixie cut), the girl who watched as her best friend fell in love, then out, then in again, knowing she'd never truly be what he wanted. A girl who comforted herself with the fact that at least he wasn't looking for a grown-up relationship, right? When Tink first meets the decidedly adult Pan, she falls into one of those few rom-com tropes that really seems to echo real life — the pair part ways because one of them can't be what the other needs, and they bump into each other years later, when Pan has grown into everything Tink wanted him to be. It's painful to watch the question you see forming behind her eyes: "Was it me who couldn't inspire those changes in him?"
In a later scene, Tinkerbell listens to Peter as he remembers his history, which is so interwoven with hers, hearing exactly where their two stories diverged — as she watched him have his first kiss. She's dressed up for his homecoming, but she already seems resigned, knowing their stories will never be truly joined again, not in the way she wants them to be. It's another familiar narrative — of one person clinging to a shared history even as they see the other person has so obviously moved on.
What makes the story of these two broken hearts the flying, crowing boy left in his wake all the more tragic is that they're just footnotes to the bigger story — Pan saves his kids and learns to be a better man and father. The two women who loved him seem happy for him. But then again, they always were, even if his happiness didn't serve their own.

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