What it's really about
I love this film; whenever I feel bad, I watch it and I feel better. In a way I see it as a very didactic film: it's about coping in the face of disappointment, heartbreak, or injury.
This is evident in the main plot: Neither Alex or Daniel are getting all they really want from Bob, and he feels that they're encroaching too much on his precious freedom. He flees to America, and both of his lovers are rueful, but still wistful, not at all sorry to have been with him, and surviving--Alex will take care of Bob's parrot (as I recall--it's been a while), Daniel will go to Italy alone, and he tells us directly, in that amazing last scene, that he's sad, but really ok. And maybe Bob will eventually come back, to either or both of them.
(Incidentally, I wonder how many people realized that Bob is played by the actor who plays Judas in the original album of Jesus Christ Superstar, or that his brother played Buffy's Watcher.)
But the theme comes through even stronger in so many of the "side stories," from the first words of the film, "Does it hurt when I press here?" (or something similar), to the man who has to be reassured that he doesn't have cancer. The children are upset about the death of the dog, but are playing by evening. (They also know that their mother is having an affair, and we must presume that their father accepts this.) The parents of the accident victim ask Daniel whether their badly-injured daughter might be better off dead, and he recoils--oh, no, I'd never say that, she can still live a sort of life. Alex's too-old client is able to get jobs, at least for a while, with his facelifts. Alex's mother tells her that she's unlikely to find complete happiness. They're all surviving--not flourishing, but coping. And, the film tells us, so can we all. Personally, I find this very comforting. --Howard
Rise again, rise again,
Though your heart, it be broken, your life about to end,
No matter what you’ve lost, be it a home, a love, a friend,
Be like the Mary Ellen Carter:
Rise again! --Stan Rogers