Leon: The Professional (1994)

I harboured no particularly high hopes when I sat down one recent Saturday evening with Leon: The Professional on my iPad. A recommendation was made to me in passing by a fellow netizen, however neither the film poster nor trailer was particularly engaging for one used to the Hollywood blockbusters typical of the 21st century.

I emerged from the film a tearful mess. Unreservedly. Unabashedly.

Seldom have I shed tears over fictitious characters and settings as I have done for Leon. Seldom could I empathise with their plight or feel thus moved by their apparent platitude as human beings.

Leon has made me realise that there is nothing like an ordinary, coherently master-minded narrative which tugs at the heartstrings quite so. The Forrest Gumpy hitman and his precocious protégée. The daily humdrum of “cleaning”. The understated everyday interactions between a childlike adult and a hardened child are what makes this film an enthralling, emotional experience from beginning to end.

The film presented a perfectly woven drama between two socially ostracised individuals bonded together over time by what I can only describe as one of the tenderest affections for each other. And I have no doubt that what Leon has learnt to feel for Mathilda was love, and gratitude, for finally giving him “a taste for life” after his lonesome existence for presumably the past twenty years. Whilst he may not readily admit even to himself, the emotions transcend all cerebral description: the way he sheltered her during moments of tense gunfight, the way he held her when he found her unharmed in 4602.

There are films which you watch and forget; there are also films which leave in indelible imprint in your life and your perspective is forever changed. Leon is certainly not the former. I’m constantly saddened, both on-screen and off, by the endless conundrums starting with “what could have been” and “if only”. If only they could have realised that the love which they have for each other would be much more potent than the momentary satisfaction of any vengeance.

It would have been no stretch of the imagination to visualise an extension of their life story had Leon not died, in 4, 5 or 6 years’ time when their germinating seed of love would have naturally blossomed into a relationship reflective of the social norm. There are moments of reflections like this that I visualise my own alternate ending to the film, as most other viewers undoubtedly would…

Mathilda: Is life always this hard, or is it just when you’re a kid?

Leon: Always like this.

 *           *           *           *           *

Mathilda: Leon, I think I’m kinda falling in love with you.

[Leon chokes on his milk]

Mathilda: It’s the first time for me, you know?

Leon: [Wiping himself off] How do you know it’s love if you’ve never been in love before?

Mathilda: ‘Cause I feel it.

Leon: Where?

Mathilda: In my stomach. It’s all warm. I always had a knot there and now… it’s gone.

Leon: Mathilda, I’m glad you don’t have a stomachache anymore. I don’t think it means anything.

*           *           *           *           *

Leon: You need some time to grow up a little.

Mathilda: I finished growing up Leon. I just get older.

Leon: For me it’s the opposite. I’m old enough. I need time to grow up.

 *           *           *           *           *

Mathilda: I don’t want to lose you, Leon.

Leon: You’re not going to lose me. You’ve given me a taste for life. I wanna be happy. Sleep in a bed, have roots. And you’ll never be alone again Mathilda. Please, go now, baby go. I love you, Mathilda.

Mathilda: I love you, too, Leon.

*           *           *           *           *

Mathilda: [After planting Leon’s plant in the school grounds] I think we’ll be OK here Leon.

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