The Promise

Institute History

  • 1996 June Screenwriters Lab


THE PROMISE is about obsessions. There's a father's obsession with power and money, a girl's obsession with love, a young man's obsession with the mythic Wild West, a middle-aged woman's obsession with sex. These obsessions are the motors that power this story.

The story starts out in Puerto Rico. Two friends—Guzman and Alegria—find out that their wives are pregnant. They make a promise. If one of the wives gives birth to a son and the other wife gives birth to a daughter, the children will one day marry each other and bring the two families together.

Cut to eighteen years later. The girl is Lilia Guzman, a smart, modern Puerto Rican girl. Her predestined husband is Carmelo Alegria. According to the sacred promise made before they were born, they should be together right now—but they're not. Carmelo hasn't been seen in this town (Patchogue, NY) in years. Lilia has given up waiting for him. And her father, eager to get ahead in the world, desperately wants her to marry Hiberto Munoz, a horny, disgusting, rich old man. But that night, Carmelo returns and declares his love for Lilia. They sleep together. It's heaven. But when Guzman finds out that Carmelo is back and that Lilia is no longer a virgin, he swears vengeance. With the aid of his evil fighting bird Malice, Guzman succeeds in putting a fatal spell on Carmelo. Carmelo dies the next day.

A few months later, drained of all desire to live, Lilia succumbs to her father's entreaties and consents to marry Hiberto. The morning of the wedding, Lilia goes to Carmelo's grave and invites him to the wedding. During the ceremony Carmelo's ghost, heeding Lilia's pleas, appears at the wedding and enters Lilia's body, possessing her. Hiberto flees. Lilia, possessed by the soul of her true love, is finally happy, even though the possession is literally killing her. She refuses all exorcisms. Guzman, desperate, forces one on her. And Lilia and Carmelo are forced to say goodbye to each other a second time. The story ends with Lilia, seeking revenge on her murderous father, takes Guzman's magic powers away from him, liberating herself from him forever.

At the end of the story she is utterly transformed—pregnant with Carmelo's baby, ready to put her father in a home. Lilia is a wise woman, a child no more. It's her growth into maturity and her loss of innocence that will carry us along from this story's quiet beginning to its tumultuous end.


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