14 December 1984: There is the most amazing selection of films this Christmas: Raiders, Gallipoli, Mary Poppins, Superman II, Kramer vs Kramer, Nicholas Nickleby (!), phew! Am trying to persuade D to hire a video for the holidays.
At 14, I fell on the Radio Times at Christmas and dissected the movie schedule with a forensic eye. I inhaled Burt Lancaster in The Crimson Pirate at 7.30am if I could crawl from my Laura Ashley apricot-sprigged duvet. 10am was entirely feasible for Arthur with Dudley Moore. A brief (often reluctant) pause over lunch before Charlton Heston and Ben Hur at 2, followed by tea and cake on a trolley. Thoroughly Modern Millie with James Fox at 5.30, and then, if my parents weren’t clamouring for The Generation Game Christmas Special (they weren’t the clamouring kind), John Travolta wriggling his serpentine backside in Staying Alive around 8.30. The films would all then be analysed in my diary, almost wholly in terms of romantic content and fanciability of characters.
28 December 1984: Watched most of Ryan’s Daughter tonight, lovely juicy bit with a not-too-badder and her having it off in the woods.
Was this a terrible way to watch films? Aged 14, I knew reality was unlikely to present any real Matt Dillons. It wasn’t a shattering moment of heartbreak when I learned Rupert Everett was gay. My unchallenging diet of movie magic didn’t stunt my emotional growth. But for those phosphorescent moments on screen when the kiss loomed, I was completely and entirely happy. It still works. The Notebook, Serendipity, Maid of Honor, Brokeback Mountain. I’ll even take Mike and Eleven’s first kiss in Stranger Things. ‘You’ve been watching soppy movies again,’ my husband observes as I twine myself affectionately around him. And I probably have.
I’m easily pleased in fictional worlds. And I know that they are fictional. Doesn’t everyone? Even at 14, I never left a screen with my eyes pinned wide in expectation that I would have my own meet-cute with a misunderstood, blue-eyed bad boy. When I finally got round to it, real kissing was just as thrilling, if a little more localised and peppered with skin conditions and, like any good film, mostly about the anticipation. Life shows you the truth whether you watch movies or not.
In my new book MOVIE NIGHT, Hanna escapes into movies, where everything is fixed by the ninetieth minute. But real life has loose ends and damp squibs. Romance for Hanna doesn’t burst forth in a great dramatic finale, but emerges from a quietness and a rightness, a familiarity and a conversation about hair straighteners. And on New Year’s Day, when everything has been resolved, Hanna goes straight back to watching Twilight or The Holiday and enjoys those phosphorescent moments as much as she ever did. And Sol probably makes his excuses and leaves, promising to meet her later at Starbucks because he’s so INTENSELY bored of Costa.
Do you blatantly watch movies for romance?