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'I Love You Philip Morris' and the Human Need for Love


Lee has a bachelor's in English Lit. She loves analyzing fiction and obsessing over books, film, and television.


I Love You Philip Morris is a 2009 dark comedy based on the real-life prison escapee Steven Jay Russell. It's a pretty hilarious and touching movie that explores the very human need for love and acceptance that we all have.


Childhood is probably the most important stage of human development given that everything that happens during that period shapes us for the rest of our lives. Some develop phobias. Others develop low self-esteem. Still others might develop a fear of clowns.

While he is still a child, Steven Russell (Jim Carrey) discovers in a very harsh way that he is actually adopted. As explained by his adopted parents, his teenage mother sold him in the hospital parking lot with some money crammed in a paper bag.

After this, Steven develops a fear that something is wrong with him that makes people not love him, so he goes out of his way to be "normal" enough that he will be accepted by society.

When he grows up, he ignores and suppresses his true feelings to do what is socially acceptable by marrying a woman (Leslie Mann) and having children with her. He also pretends to be a devote Christian and goes to church with her.

This is all likely done to please his adopted parents and to be accepted by society, after having developed an almost desperate need to be loved and accepted after his mother's "rejection."

He also becomes a cop, all in an attempt to find his real mother and maybe get some answers as to why she "abandoned" him by giving him up for adoption. The movie is a comedy, so when his birth mother slams the door in his face, Russell shouts into it while beating it, "Why did you give me up? I was the middle child! What was wrong with me?" only to hilariously steal her doormat in revenge.


It isn't until he nearly dies in a car crash that Steven realizes life is too short not to embrace who he is. He gets a new boyfriend, Jimmy (Rodrigo Santoro), and leaves his wife, though he still sends back money to care for his family and remains in contact with his daughters (like any good father should).

But even after his epiphany, Steven still can't accept the fact that someone loves him. His terrible fear that he must go out of his way to "make up" for whatever perceived setbacks he has pushes him toward becoming a con man.

His self-esteem is so low, he doesn't believe his boyfriend can love him for who he is. Instead, he believes he will only be able to keep a boyfriend if he has lots of cash.


So Steven pulls a lot of scams, hurting himself by spilling products in the super market and then "accidentally" falling in them.

He does everything in his power to scam and steal, until he is rich enough to afford all the flashy things he believes he needs in order to gain love and acceptance.

Eventually, he gets caught and goes to jail.


It's while he's in prison that Steven meets Philip Morris (Ewan McGregor), a very sweet and gentle man who has been scammed before and seems to draw broken people over and over.

This is a perfect illustration of the law of attraction. People who are broken tend to draw other broken people. If you're a person who isn't broken and has their shit together, these sorts of broken and lost people will not be drawn to you, because they know instinctively they can't get anything from you.

When Steven first sees Philip Morris, he is instinctively drawn to him. He believes he can finally get the love and acceptance from him that he's been after all his life. And because Philip doesn't stand up for himself and instead is trusting and naive, he unconsciously welcomes such people, who then turn around and abuse him.

Let me make it clear that I'm aware people do not do this on a conscious level. All of it is subconscious. A person who is at the lowest point of their lives -- the way Philip Morris was -- is going to attract other people at a low point.

I'm basically saying that like attracts like. You don't have to be a bad person to draw someone who is going to hurt you. You just have to be open to the hurt.


The love affair that begins between Steven and Philip is actually very sweet.

Steven courts Philip beautifully, sending him chocolates and romantic letters, doing little things to make him happy.

My favorite scene in the film is when the two of them slow-dance to music while sharing a cell. The man in the next cell is beat up by the guards while trying to keep the music playing. He shouts "BITCH" at the top of his voice the entire time, which is really hilarious. Meanwhile, Steven and Philip just keep slow-dancing as if it's not happening.


Eventually, Steven poses as a lawyer and gets Philip out of jail. They go on to lead a charming life together, making love on Steven's boat and going on vacation to the beach.

Steven pays for it all by continuing in his con artist ways. He still believes that no one can love him unless he has money and flashy things, so damaged is he by what he learned as a child and later as a man about his birth mother.

At one point, Philip sits Steven down and tells him straight-up that he loves him and that he doesn't care about the money. He just wants Steven.

It bounces off a brick wall. Steven just can't believe he can be loved. Either that, or it's too late to change: he's already been stealing money from work. And he goes on stealing, even after Philip tries to get through to him.

Try not to laugh at this picture. Go ahead.

Try not to laugh at this picture. Go ahead.

Eventually, Steven is caught again and arrested again, and so is Philip, whose name Steven used on a few bank accounts. This inadvertently placed Philip -- who was innocent in all of it -- as an accomplice.

After being yelled at and dumped by Philip, Steven fakes his own death. While he is lying in bed "dying," a distraught Philip calls him on the phone and tells him that he really did love him and wants him to know that before he dies.

Steven fakes his death and escapes the private hospital so that he can see Philip again. He just wants Philip to know that he really did love him, screwed up human being that was, and that he's sorry for hurting him.

Afterward, Steven goes back to jail and is kept in 23-hour lock up, but he seems finally at peace, having finally gotten what he needed from someone: love and acceptance for everything he is.

The sad reality is, had Steven just worked on some self-improvement, he could have had an emotionally healthy relationship with Philip. All he had to do was accept that he was lovable, accept that he was good enough, and stop going to such desperate lengths to prove his worth as a human being.

Steven's boyfriend, Jimmy, even tried to warn him of what was going to happen if he didn't start loving himself. He said to Steven,

"I know you don't believe it, but you deserve to be happy."

To which Steven starts to cry.

Jimmy tried to tell Steven that he doesn't love himself, and until he does, he will never have a relationship that is healthy and functional.

The same applies to Philip, who wouldn't have found himself in an emotionally abusive relationship where he wound up going to jail if only he had loved himself and recognized that he was worthy of real love.

A relationship can not work if both people involved don't already love themselves.

Steven and Phillip both found out the hard way.

© 2018 Lee


Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on August 17, 2018:

Hello Ash grey, I felt for Steven. It's a pity some mothers do not welcome innocent babes. It is even a universal phenomenon. Self first is related to love first. You have to accept yourself as you are, and love yourself too. The money and all flashy things got illegally failed. If he had accepted things as they are and love hinself, the story would have been different. Thank you.

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