A Gun in Each Hand


Ten minutes into watching the Spanish movie, A Gun in Each Hand, it occurred to me, “Ah, this is the world I want to create! This is what it looks like!”

For anyone who’s ever heard me speak about “moving the Unsaid to the Said” and what it brings to the world, this is it. Up on the screen, a director called Cesc Gay, had gotten it and created it.

The film consists of five vignettes, each featuring different characters, usually one man talking to another man. That’s all that “happens”. One character has a conversation with another character, and there are five such conversations.


The first conversation is a masterpiece. A man in his 40s walks into the courtyard of a Barcelona apartment block and stands waiting at the lift. The lift descends and opens. There’s a person inside hunched up against the back of the lift who doesn’t get out. Eventually, we see it’s a man who’s crying, and trying to hide his distress. As the crying man collects himself and steps out of the lift, the two men recognise each other. They are old friends who’ve not seen each other for 10 years.

Hesistantly at first, the two men sit on the stairs of the apartment block and discuss their lives. The man who has been crying has just visited his psychotherapist – “he’s German, you know” – is taking little pills, is “still married” to his wife and has two kids. Things haven’t been too good for the last year or two.

The other man is at the apartment block, he says, to see a divorce lawyer. He lost his job at the newspaper last year, and has moved back to his mother’s house. “And I’m 46,” he says to the other man.  The other asks, “Do you have kids?”

“No,” he says shaking his head and smiling ruefully,

I thought I did once, but it turned out not to be mine.

He says, smiling his ravishing smile, and looking so warmly and deeply into the eyes of the other man,

No, man, I’m a total loser.

They talk like this for about 20 minutes, and at the end they go their separate ways, one out into the world of little pills, the other to the world of the divorce lawyer.

And that’s it. The next scene opens with two new characters in a different situation. And the movie goes on in this way for four more vignettes, and then finishes with a final scene where things are “wrapped up”.


The wrapping-up is a symptom of something that happens midway through the film: it starts to editorialise and loses power from that moment on. So, the second half does not compare with the first. Nevertheless, it is a funny and insightful film, and I’m excited to see on screen what my beautiful, courageous world could look like, and what it sometimes already looks like.

“What does it look like?” you ask. This is my answer for today:

Like two people giving up “looking-good” and saying what’s really going on for them; two people discovering in themselves the courage to speak about what really matters; two people giving the gift of their vulnerability and humanity to another; entrusting themselves to the generosity of another; and in the process, experiencing the profound connection and intimacy that each of us seeks.


The film also had me think of my own prehistory in the world of the Unsaid. Five years ago, things were very different for me. Most days, my dominant experience was either despair or rage, and I swung constantly between the two. There were happier moments occasionally. The default, however, was pretty grim.

My experience today is radically different. My circumstances are not necessarily changed. I deal with the same issues most people do: broken relationships, relationships that don’t work, financial worries, ageing, people that let me down, hostile people, and so on. At the same time, my experience of myself and my experience of the world is utterly changed.

One way I think about the transition is in my relation to the Unsaid. Previously, I didn’t know how to move things from the Unsaid to the Said, and there were two things in particular that didn’t work.

I used to blow myself up. I’d store up some resentment, some injury and then inevitably there would come the day when I would explode. I would hurt myself dreadfully doing this, and the people around me were usually bewildered.

The second thing I would do is to speak my complaint, not what lay behind the complaint. The person on the end of it, of course, would just shut down, or try to shut me down, because all they could hear was blame. I didn’t know how to look to see what I was really experiencing and speak that instead. All I could see was the complaint. I couldn’t see the fear, mistake or shortcoming – ie, my fear, mistake or shortcoming – which the complaint was covering up.

Nowadays, I know how to move the Unsaid to the Said with safety, and in such a way that there’s no loss of power, freedom or self-expression.

Life is very different.



12 thoughts on “A Gun in Each Hand

  1. We all have to face up to the Said at some stage. This is easier said than done and takes time and honesty. But, at some stage it doesn’t matter when it happens. Better late than never. Not facing up to the ‘said’ means it will consume and gnaw away at the unresolved. Sometimes it results in bitterness and creeping despondency. Not a good place to be in. Better to reside in a world of getting it off one’s chest. But…again… easier said than done. It is no good being too tough. Two steps forward one step back. In the end you’ll move forward..


    • It sure does take honesty. Only thing is, many times we think we’re being honest and we’re not. For example, when I was presenting my complaints to others, I thought I was being honest. I couldn’t see there was something underneath the complaint and it always concerned something I was trying to cover up.

      Being honest about the thing we’re trying to cover up is how the glorious, profound movement from the Unsaid to the Said occurs.

      So long as we’re feeling tentative, talking about not being too tough, we’re still in the realm of surface honesty. Once the move to the deeper honesty occurs, the whole question of being tough/not tough falls away. Because we see it’s about us, not them at all.


  2. Leaving stuff unsaid, storing up resentment–it’s never good! (I cannot be reminded of this often enough!) And thank, too, Narelle, for the heads-up about the movie. Sounds so interesting.


  3. I took a series of “personal development” courses in the mid-1980’s. One of the modules was about the cycle of resist-resent-revenge, the 3 R’s that sound like a car that is stuck in the mud and unable to move: RRR, RRR, RRR. I’ll look out for the movie, and thanks for another great post.


  4. There is always more hiding in the background of the unsaid. The problems arise when one person hears the beginning of a conversation and shuts down at that point. It’s frustrating to A because B doesn’t listen long enough to hear. Rage and frustration are not far apart. I think it’s important to have things “said”, and also to listen. What we say is not always what we truly feel. It maybe what we feel at that moment. To be able to share and disseminate our feelings is a gift but one that can be learned as you have found. It releases tension and clarifies our feeling as well. I am still trying to learn!


    • You put your finger on it, Kayti: “what we say is not always what we truly feel.”

      As long as we don’t say what we truly feel (any in many cases, it will take quite some work to uncover what we truly feel), no real conversation will take place. B will not have ears to hear.

      Each of us is an exquisitely attuned detector of the truth. We recognise if someone is speaking it seemingly before the person has even opened their mouth. You know the paradoxes the quantum physicists reel from in amazement? How they can look at a sub-atomic particle and apparently see it in two places at once? Somehow, human beings do this with the truth. Before the other person has even started speaking, we smell if it is the truth.


  5. I shall look on Netflix for this film. I’ve been watching all of the foreign films and they KICK ASS. I loved “THE HEDGEHOGS” & “GIRL w/ THE DRAGON TATTOO.”

    I have found in my life that “SAID” is so much more beneficial and powerful than the “UNSAID.”

    I appreciate your substance, Narelle. Xx


  6. We live in an upside-down world, Narelle. We believe that being open with our hearts makes us weak when the reverse is true. The more we open our hearts to others, the LESS vulnerable we are. Weakness is hiding our true selves behind the lie of stoicism. Courage is showing others who we really are.


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