Why It Doesn't Matter That Michael Corleone Says 'I Love You' In The Godfather

Kay's not as dumb as you think.

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Anyone who has watched The Godfather (which honestly should be EVERYONE given the brilliance of this classic film) has issues with the relationship between Michael Corleone and Kay Adams which justifiably surrounded in controversy.

From the moment we meet Kay, we understand how she clashes with his family and their traditions. She is American and not the Italian spouse his parents have always wished he'd have and she doesn't understand the family business — including when to stay out of it.


I mean, she wears red at Connie's wedding when the family is wearing pink!


Could there be a more obvious sign of their clashing?

And yet, in the beginning, he seems so in love with her that you can't help but root for their relationship. Until he flees to Italy, gets the thunderbolt, and marries Apollonia.


So when Michael comes back from America after the death of his loving Italian wife and proposes to Kay, I couldn't help but feel for Kay. She didn't know about Michael's first wife or how she was clearly just meant to fill those shoes.

But then I watched the movie again with my family in the theater recently (it was re-released in select theaters) and I watched how Michael proposes to her.

And I couldn't help but be enraged and confused.

Here's the proposal scene again, in case it's been a while or you — like most of my family — and you need to see it again to hear him say "I love you":

Kay is strong in her stance. She demands to know why, after so long a time apart, he now comes to her. Even as Michael says he needs her and he cares for her, she shakes her head. It is only once he uses his very last resort and says "I love you" that Kay finally gives in and goes with him.


The very last thing he says after saying I need you, I care for you, our children, after saying every other thing he can think of, he finally relents and says, "I love you". He wouldn't even say it over the phone when she was the only girl in his life, earlier in the movie, when he was surrounded by his family.

How could she believe him now? Doesn't she know she's being manipulated?

And then I realized the heartbreaking reason why she doesn't care: because she still loves him.

I don't think she was being naive or stupid. I think she knew exactly what she was getting into.

It's how she was able to push herself to say no, even though it hurt to hear him say so many things she's dreamed of. How he needed her. How he wanted them to have children together. How they would spend the rest of their lives together.


The very things she dreamed they would have.

But when we love someone so completely, when they are our whole world. This is what Michael is for Kay, and it's nearly impossible not to give in when the object of our affections says those three magical words: "I love you."

She knew he didn't really love her, not the way she loved him. Not in the way people write inspiring love quotes about or romantic fairy tales teach us.

But she knew he did, in fact, need her in his own way. And with those magic words, she was able to convince herself it was out of love, that he truly did love her as he once. She may have even thought she could bring back the love they once shared.



You're faced with an impossible choice when you're suffering from unrequited love, and she chose her own happiness. She chose to live life with the man she truly loved and have a chance at reminding him of the love they once shared.


And to me, that makes Kay's choice not one made from stupidity  but from sheer strength.

The strength to choose what she wants, to choose her happiness, even when she knew it was not going to be easy. And in its own way, that's truly inspiring.