City of Angels is a 1998 American romantic fantasy drama film directed by Brad Silberling. The film stars Nicolas Cage and Meg Ryan. Set in Los Angeles, California, the film is a very loose remake of Wim Wenders’ 1987 German film Wings of Desire (Der Himmel über Berlin), which was set in Berlin.
Seth is one of many angels who watch over humans and protect them in unseen ways. Seth’s main responsibility is to appear to those who are close to death andguide them to the next life. As part of this task, Seth and one of his fellow angels, Cassiel (Andre Braugher), like to ask people what their favorite thing in life was. But despite their daily encounters, they appear to have trouble understanding human beings and their ways.
While waiting to escort to the other world a man who will not survive heart surgery, Seth is impressed by the vigorous efforts of the surgeon, Maggie Rice (Meg Ryan), to try and save the ill-fated man’s life and her sincere anguish at her failure to do so. Seth soon becomes preoccupied with Maggie and decides to become visible to her despite his obvious inability to give her many convincing details about himself, such as what he does for a living or even his last name. Despite this, they develop a friendship which soon turns to mutual attraction, although Maggie is already involved with one of her colleagues, Jordan Ferris (Colm Feore), at the hospital. Seth then meets Nathaniel Messinger (Dennis Franz), one of Maggie’s patients, who can sense Seth’s presence and that of other angels. Nathaniel soon relates to Seth that he, too, had once been an angel but, by way of the free will granted to angels, decided to become human through the process he refers to as “falling”. Seth begins to consider exercising this option so that he can be with Maggie in a fully physical and emotional relationship. When Maggie receives a marriage proposal from Jordan, she finds herself having to choose between him and Seth.
Having realized that Seth is impervious to injury, Maggie finally confronts him and demands to know who or what he really is, but she is unable to accept the revelation and sends him away. Maggie later talks about Seth with Nathaniel who gradually reveals his own angelic origin. He explains to her why he himself chose to become human and points out that Seth is thinking of doing the same. Seth decides to become human through the symbolic gesture of jumping from the top of a skyscraper. Immediately upon awakening from the jump, he starts to experience all of the human feelings and sensations that he had never been able to understand, beginning with physical injury and pain. Up until this point, Seth’s personality and emotions, like those of all the other angels, have been very subdued, but that starts to change. Now human, Seth has to find his way to the hospital to see Maggie, but he is told that she has gone to her uncle’s mountain cabin for a break. Penniless and naive, he cannot pay for the journey and ends up getting mugged and having his boots taken from his feet by a gang of roving predators. He eventually hitches a ride to Lake Tahoe and appears, soaked and cold, at Maggie’s doorstep. Seeing the split lip and condensed breath coming from his mouth in the cold air, Maggie realizes that he has given up his exalted status for her love. She sees to his wounds and then they enjoy warm, passionate lovemaking at last.
The next morning, as Seth is in the shower, enjoying his first sensation of running hot water on his body, Maggie rides her bike to a local store to buy some pears for him. On her way back, happy and fulfilled, she rides her bike with her eyes closed and her arms wide open to the Autumn sunlight and her bright future with Seth. Her happiness is cut short by a truck that catches her by surprise when it pulls out in front of her. Seth senses that Maggie is in trouble and runs to her aid. He arrives in time for Maggie to tell him that she sees the angel who has come to escort her away. Although Seth is no longer able to see the angels, he knows they are there and frantically begs Maggie not to look at them. Maggie tells him that she is not afraid anymore and that when they will ask her what her favorite thing in life used to be, she will say it was Seth. Those were her last words before fading away. Seth now is experiencing the human side of loss and death. He questions if he is being punished for leaving heaven to be a human, when he was meant to stay where he was. Now grieving and alone, Seth is visited by Cassiel. Cassiel offers comfort and asks Seth if he had known this would happen, would he still decide to become human. Seth answers (the movie’s final words):
|“||I would rather have had one breath of her hair, one kiss of her mouth, one touch of her hand, than eternity without it. Just one.||”|
Seth mourns for Maggie and, while eating a pear, wonders if his new life will be difficult.
The final scene recalls an earlier one with Nathaniel. It shows Seth at the beach where the angels meet every day at dawn to listen to the celestial music. With Cassiel and the rest of the angels watching, Seth expresses his joy in being human and the fact that he has come to terms with his new life by running into the water and playing in the waves. In a rare moment of emotion, Cassiel is seen laughing joyfully for his old friend.
Author: sami_almehdi from Stockholm, Sweden
3 April 2004
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Good heavens, this is by far the best lovestory I’ve ever seen. A perfectly carried out movie about this angel (Nicolas) that gives up eternity in Heaven to be with a woman (Meg) on Earth. This movie really touches your soul, so don’t go destroy it by watching it with a bunch of friends. As a matter of fact, It made me cry like a baby… City of Angels actually makes you reflect about life/death and you’ll know it touches your soul. I’ve never before been so affected (in a good way though =) by a lovestory, but this one; it’s hard to describe you have to see it! // a gracefulness
Author: babeth_jr from United States
4 April 2006
I absolutely love this movie. I have seen it several times and it still never ceases to bring me to tears. Nicholas Cage does a wonderful job portraying Seth, an angel who falls in love with a workaholic doctor, convincingly portrayed by Meg Ryan (in a definite departure from her usual kooky, girl next door role). The movie is beautifully photographed, and the love story, although a little far fetched, (angel gives up being an angel to become human to be with the woman he loves) it is still incredibly moving. Without giving away all the best parts of the movie, you had better have plenty of Kleenex on hand…it’s definitely a tearjerker. The ending of the movie is a testament to the power of love and life…powerful stuff. This is definitely a “chick flick”, but is just wonderful on all levels. I have always believed in angels, but after seeing this film it gave me a different perspective of our guardian angels. A must see!