Scent Of A Woman

  • Monday 02 Nov 2020
  • by Simon Phin
Simon Phin - Scent Of A Woman

We’re approaching 30 years since Al Pacino gave us the cantankerous, blind and uniquely flawed Lt.Col Frank Slade in ‘Scent of a Woman’.

Pacino goes on to win the Oscar for Best Actor and nails it again for the Golden Globes as does the film for Best Screenplay & Best Motion Picture.

So why does the film resonate with so many of us?

Is it simply the story of a blind man and an underprivileged student (Charlie) and their journey through a once in a lifetime Thanksgiving weekend? Or, is it a little more?

I’ve had some fantastic opportunities to speak before people on the subject matter of what is and isn’t leadership. And, there’s way too many speaking on this subject as it is so the last thing I wish to do is give my two bob’s worth on leadership. But, let me give you just a rounding collective stand on why Scent of a Woman resonates with so many of us

The ability to look back in time and be proud of our actions, of our behaviours, is something so few of us can subscribe to, yet, almost unanimously, would want to attain.

In the final scene of the movie young Charlie finds himself challenged by a fork in the road moment and, you’ve got it, he chooses the right path and, as a consequence, finds himself threatened with expulsion from the prestigious preparatory school, The Baird School, and the once in a lifetime opportunity to attend Harvard.

It is also the trigger for his defence played flawlessly by a raging Al Pacino triggered to act by injustice and privilege. But why do we watch this scene again, and again?

Simply, because we are all attracted to moral courage, the simple understanding of what is right and wrong, just and unjust. We (hope) to see in ourselves our own identity if placed in that position. If only it were that simple.

Moral courage is hard. Standing up for what is right is not always easy and having the boldness to say something is not still a natural act for us. The fork in the road in hindsight is comfortable to choose, yet under pressure, it’s not the easy choice we wish for it to be.

So go on, watch the defence of Charlie by Frank Slade (see the link below) and enjoy one of the great speeches of our time in technicolour.

But, more than that, understand what we too, can achieve when faced with a moral challenge. Our win, our success, may not be a rousing approval by a stunned audience, it may well be the deafening silence of being alone in our thoughts proud of our action.

What may well come from your fork in the road moment is knowing that the choice we made is one we will look back on with pride and comfort in our own decision making. That we will not leave with this moment with an amputated spirit, but rather confidence in knowing we did the right thing.

Screenplay writer for Scent of a Woman, Bo Goldman, said, ‘If there is a moral to the film, it is that if we leave ourselves open and available to the surprising contradictions in life, we will find the strength to go on’.

*Out of Order? ‘I’ll show you out of order’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jd10x8LiuBc