Death in Martin Brest’s fantasy love story “Meet Joe Black” from 1998 is interested in what it means to be alive. Anthony Hopkins plays businessman Bill Parrish, who Death knows is destined to die just days from now on his 65th birthday. Death enters Bill Parrish’s life after taking the body of a young man (Brad Pitt) slain while crossing the street. Parrish is given a bargain by Death: If he serves as Death’s representative in the realm of the living, he won’t pass away. Although Parrish is reluctant to accept the position of a life coach for the grim reaper, he does so.
Death, who is introduced to Parrish’s family as “Joe Black,” learns more about humans and develops a closeness with Susan Parrish (Claire Forlani), who thinks she knows “Joe”: Just before he passed away, she had a chance encounter with the young guy whose body Joe was using.
As the movie goes on, Joe gains more knowledge about human life, gets to know Susan better, and develops feelings for her as his desire to become human changes into something far more serious.
Discovering the true meaning of love
Joe has come to the realization that his love for Susan can never truly work by the movie’s last scene. He could take her with him to the afterlife, but Parrish argues that love is more than just a desire; it’s also a commitment to sacrifice and being honest. Joe understands that it would be unethical to pull Susan from her life just because he is passionate about her.
The elder guy makes amends with his family at Parrish’s birthday celebration, and Joe maintains his identity a secret from Susan, who may or may not understand the significance of it. Joe departs from Susan and meets with Parrish after thanking her for loving him and assuring them that she would always have what she had at the coffee shop. The two leave for a minute, walking up a stone staircase and across a bridge, but only Joe comes back.
Susan approaches him, but she quickly notices that something about him is strange. The young man remembers nothing other than their meeting at the coffee shop and appears perplexed. During their conversation, Susan appears to realize that the young guy isn’t Joe but also that he is someone she loves deeply and who unquestionably cares for her. As the party fireworks go out, the couple returns to the festivities while still holding hands.
A price paid for love
The movie’s conclusion captures both the gift Joe gave Susan and the sacrifice he made for her. By the end of the movie, Joe understands that he can’t be the person Susan wants him to be, but he can offer her the chance to be happy by bringing the man from the coffee shop back to life, giving them the chance to have a lifetime of happiness—something Joe himself couldn’t—together.
Susan doesn’t explicitly say that she understands what occurred, but she does express her longing for the young guy to have met her father while simultaneously appearing to comprehend that the man she thought of as Joe is dead along with her father. She seemed to have realized that Joe and the young man are not the same people when he says that he hopes for the same thing.
The conclusion of “Meet Joe Black” is a reflection on the wonder of life and the fervor of emotion as well as on knowing when to let go and give up our own pleasure in the hopes of someone else’s. The movie’s tragic, yet strangely uplifting, the finale is caused by a genuine gesture of love.