Starring Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon and Jennifer Lopez, the film is about the story of a lawyer who has a charming wife, a loving family and a good job but feels that something is missing. Each evening on his trek home on the train, he sees a woman staring through the window of a dance studio. One night, he impulsively jumps off the train and signs up for ballroom dance lessons in the strange hope of meeting her.
The major part of the movie follows him through various lessons where he, for some inexplicable reason, becomes enamoured with ballroom dancing. No, he does not have some fling with the woman, Jennifer Lopez, but his growing enthusiasm for dance rekindles her own interest in her talent for the art.
It is never really explained why, but Gere’s character keeps the lessons secret from everybody including his wife, Susan Sarandon. She eventually becomes suspicious about his absences worried he is having an affair. She hires a private detective to find out what’s going on but when she does learn the truth, she stops the investigation supposedly not wanting to invade her husband’s privacy.
The rest of the movie involves a dance competition; the time spent practising and the competition itself, etc. with some other plot twists. The important part of the film is the moment of confession between Gere and Sarandon about him keeping things secret, about wanting to find himself and not wanting to hurt his wife if he was unhappy. The climactic scene has him declaring his love for his wife.
Okay, I should have given something of a spoiler alert but I don’t think I will have told you too much to have ruined watching the film.
I now arrive at the point of all this. There is a scene in the movie where Susan Sarandon meets the private detective in a bar who investigates her husband.
Beverley: All these promises that we make and we break. Why is it, do you think, that people get married?
Detective: Interesting because I would have taken you for a romantic. Why then?
Beverley: Because we need a witness to our lives. There’s a billion people on the planet. I mean what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything: the good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things. All of it, all the time, everyday. You’re saying your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go unwitnessed because I will be your witness.
Who will bear witness to us? Who will bear witness to our lives? What does any one of our lives mean? There are not a billion but close to seven billion people on this planet and yes, we will all go unnoticed for the most part. However "for the most part" is not "all parts"; it is not everything. Hopefully there is still someone who will notice.
The final scene of the movie: The Book of Love by Peter Gabriel
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Rotten Tomatoes: Shall We Dance? (2004 American film): 46%
Wikipedia: Shall We Dance (2004 American film)
Rotten Tomatoes: Shall We Dance? (1996 Japanese film): 91%
Wikipedia: Shall We Dance? (1996 Japanese film)
Peter Gabriel: The Book of Love (lyrics) with video of song