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Women and Mid-Life: Reflections on the Film A Simple Favor

Updated: Aug 9, 2023

Do you wonder why certain films affect you the way they do?

Sometimes it’s obvious why you feel a certain way after watching a film. Scenes of devastation and trauma predictably produce emotional responses and sometimes reflection about life and culture.

Other times you may find yourself obsessed with a specific film or genre and not understand why. In this case there is something deeper going on, but you need a different perspective and tools for finding the meaning, which once found may change the way you look at your life.

This depth approach to finding meaning in film requires trading in a literal interpretation in favor of a more symbolic one.

The first time I saw A Simple Favor, I experienced it literally as the mystery thriller advertised. As usual, I went back to see it a 2nd, 3rd and just last night 4th time, each time mining the film for insights. Something clicked this morning, and I wanted to share these insights.

Emily and Stephanie as Opposing Forces Inside You

Why do I think this is especially helpful for women in mid-life? Mid-life is often a time when, prompted by some kind of crisis like divorce or loss of identity, causes one to reflect on the difference between persona (the face you show the world) and our true self. One way to look at a film’s characters is as different personalities that exist inside you. With this perspective you can easily see Emily and Stephanie as opposing voices that many women carry with them during their lives.

Stephanie can be seen as the persona many of us develop as a way to meet the expectations society has for us as women and wives. Emily can be seen as the part of women that gets repressed for fear of not measuring up. In the movie Emily says what many women want to say but do not. If you cringed like I did at Emily’s language but rooted for her at the same time, that is a clear sign that you have been repressing your inner bitch instead of relating to her and allowing her to surface when you need her to.

What the two women have in common is love for their children and dirty little secrets. For Stephanie, she has been trying to overcome the shame of her secret by becoming a perfect but suffering version of herself. For Emily, her not receiving love as a child has turned her into a hardened and defensive woman who cannot connect with others.

Emily and Stephanie do not represent good and bad though. They both represent the dark side or extreme version of an important personality trait. Because they have repressed this other version of themselves, these versions eventually erupt like a disastrous volcano. Stephanie wastes no time sleeping with Sean, and Emily kills her twin – a part of herself.

The Importance of Relating to Wounded Parts of Ourselves

There is an important paradox here. The personas the women developed shaped their talents and contributions to the world. They both could be considered very successful – Stephanie as an attentive mother and Emily as achieving success in business.

On the other hand, if your persona is too strong, you suffer because you are repressing another important part of yourself. Only by relating to this other side of you – it erupts because you ignore her – can you develop into a fuller and truer version of you.

As you relate to this other side of you, you find and develop new talents that also were repressed. This is the gold, the treasure, that is hidden in the shadow part of ourselves that once uncovered contributes to what we bring to the world, which in turn brings a new sense of purpose.

Conversations Like This at My Monthly Women And Mid-Life Workshop at Elle Studio

There’s so much more to share, and I hope you will consider joining other women and me at my monthly Women and Mid-Life workshop – the next one is Sunday, October 14th, 4-5:30pm. Click here to register. For information about my depth services, visit

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