What is drama? According to Dictionary.com (a favorite reference site of mine),it is “ a composition in prose or verse presenting in dialogue or pantomime a story involving conflict or contrast of character, especially one intended to be acted on the stage; a play.” Webster’s dictionary defines it as “a play, movie, or television production with a serious tone or subject.”
Those are the textbook definitions but want makes a good drama? I’m sure the answer varies from person to person. For me, a good drama is one in which I can connect with at least one of the characters on an emotional level. I have seen some outstanding performances such as Tommy Lee Jones in “Cobb” or Jim Carrey in “Man on the Moon” but in both cases, because I could not identify with the characters on the screen, I found it hard to “like” these movies.
Dramas, for me, are often heart-rending affairs. Think along the lines of “Kramer vs. Kramer,” “Ordinary People” or “The Bridges of Madison County.” Others that have moved me without moving me to tears would be “Elizabeth” with Cate Blanchett“,”Pride and Prejudice” with Kiera Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen and “The Perfect Storm.”
In all of these cases, I could relate to the emotions and experiences of one or more characters. Not to say that I have firsthand knowledge of what it’s like to be the Queen of England or captaining a fishing boat. I could relate to the feeling of being alone in an important decision-making situation, feeling unloved or struggling to overcome some catastrophic event in my life.
Movies that make me care about the characters and forget my own troubles for a while are in my book, the best the genre of drama has to offer.