I adored this non-couple couple. I’m wading into thorny territory here, so I will try to be careful. And I’ll try to do it without any major spoilers for The Imitation Game, although I’d argue this isn’t the kind of movie that can be spoiled with prior information.
The relationship in question is the one between Alan Turing and Joan Clarke as portrayed in the film. He was a gay man and she was presumably straight. They were colleagues. They were great friends. They got engaged at one point, but he eventually broke it off. That’s the extent to which I will spoil the movie.
The reason I loved this pair was because they really truly cared for each other. They really truly loved each other. Just not in a sexual way. Or maybe not even in a romantic way. According to the movie, Joan’s parents were objecting to her work at Bletchley Park because it would hamper her chances of securing a good marriage, so Alan figures if they get married, Joan’s parents would have no further objections to her staying. But he feels guilty about his closeted homosexuality (let’s not forget this was illegal at the time). She doesn’t care though. Working with him is her only opportunity to pursue her true passion and she believes they can have a “marriage of the minds”. But it doesn’t work out.
I am not trying to ignore the questionable choice of choosing to focus on Alan Turing’s attempt at a hetero-normative relationship. However, that is a separate issue worth discussing, and one that has been covered by many in the press. Here is an article on this issue by the Daily Beast. However, the choices of the filmmakers notwithstanding, the relationship between Alan Turing and Joan Clarke intrigued me quite a bit. We don’t know if they really could have achieved this “marriage of the minds” or whether the relationship would have fallen apart eventually had it continued. But the former does sure sound lovely to me.
Historically, their relationship played out somewhat differently of course. Here is a Joan Clarke (then called Joan Murray) interview where she talks about it. It’s a lot more cutesy and a lot less romantic than in the film. Cutesy, because they certainly seemed to be more like an actual 1940s couple who kissed and held hands and went on dates (unlike in the film, which kept their relationship strictly platonic). It’s less romantic because they weren’t trying to have “a marriage of the minds” like in the film. They were from a time when they viewed marriage and procreation as a duty. So men got married to women and had kids even if they were gay.
I do love the pair as the movie portrays it. But in order to do that, I have to think about it in a vacuum. That’s because when you think about the film’s choices in the context of the deep tragedy of Alan Turing’s life and the real ostracization faced by gay men at the time, it is hard to celebrate this pair. Even in the context of the movie, given how it ends, it is hard to celebrate this pair. I just want to say that I love the idea of a marriage of the minds. I wish I could see more of that in film.