Based on a true story.
I’m writing to say thanks. You gifted me a moment. A while back now, but I’m grateful.
For almost three months I’ve been away from home for work. In the last week I’ve been unwell. Nothing life threatening but I’ve spent that time alone.
As I start to get better I emerged this morning and sat outside a cafe on a hot middle eastern street. I was staring into space and listening to an interview with Thomas Newman. He was fascinating on a lot of things. One was how much he enjoyed working on the music for Bridge of Spies with you.
I found tears in my eyes. Having spent so much time in my own head lately I’m susceptible. The tears still came as a surprise. I couldn’t figure where the tumblers in my tired brain had taken me.
To misquote a great Elbow song, talk of you put me 20 years ago, and 3000 miles away.
I had been with Caroline just a couple of years back then and we were great. Broke but happy.
We had moved in together into a cheap flat over a dentist (that’s not a wall they’re drilling into down there).
Even then, after a couple of years together, we were still getting to know each other. I expect you’ll understand how even a happy relationship can get better.
One thing she had missed out on in the earlier years of her life had been movies. I don’t mean she had not been to the cinema. But only high fibre things such as the full nine and half hours of Shoah or French documentaries about the war in Algeria. Culture’s value was in education for her.
I had a different experience of movies. Mum and dad were splitting up as Star Wars came out. I fell in love with that and mum saw a way ahead. We went to the movies every week. A slice of joy was probably a good thing for both of us. A couple of hours off from reality.
I wanted to give Caroline that. The pure joy of the movies.
So I bought a couple of tickets for one of your movies, a re-issue. She didn’t want to see it if I’m honest. A kid’s movie.
She humored me, she’s done that a lot over the years. We settled down in a big cinema in London. One of those in Leicester Square with a screen so huge you experience, rather than watch, the film.
I kind of watched the movie, but I knew it inside out already. I watched her. Over two hours I saw her face as she fell in love with E.T.
At the end, in the floods of tears it has always reduced me to, I looked over and saw her understand what I was telling her. That boy. That lonely boy.
She knew me better, deeper, and she knew why movies that give time off from reality are about nothing but reality.
We walked out of that cinema hand in hand. Wondered off into Soho, had a few drinks and a laugh. After that, she trusted me. In life, but more importantly, in movies. She knew I would show her moments that won’t just be lost like tears in the rain.
She cheered like a grandma at the wrestling as Rocky went the distance. Gave A Matter of Life and Death the time it needed to say everything about love that’s ever needed saying. She knows why Johnny B Goode showed parents were people once too. She cheered louder than me as the question Can he do this all day? Hung over a man standing alone, ready to fight and inevitably lose. Until he heard ‘On your left.’
I’m not certain she agrees with me and Shaun that the best way to survive the zombie apocalypse is to go for a pint in Crouch End, but everything’s a lot to ask for.
She found out why a bell ringing is good news for angels on a night when a packed cinema had one empty seat, next to her.
Frank Capra Jr’s speech was very good, as was his face a few moments later. He sat down next to her and she told him she had enjoyed his talk and was looking forward to finding out why I loved Bedford Falls so much.
She was right. Why should anyone in a cinema waiting for a movie to start have seen it before?
He was right. How can you be in a special screening of It’s A Wonderful Life and not have seen it before?
Me? I was looking at the ceiling while they spoke. Beautiful buildings these old cinemas.
While I’m writing there are probably a couple of other things I should say thanks for. Eliot using a lightbulb to heat up a thermometer and get a day off school? Good work. Mum had seen the movie. All’s fair I reckon.
The swordsman in the market? The first time I watched it was in a posh town called Guildford in a cinema full of ‘stiff arse Brits’. No laughter except mine and mum’s. We got a lot of ‘looks’.
The second time, a few days later, was in a cinema full of squaddies in Aldershot, a garrison town. Indy’s tired bullet fired, the place exploded. I knew we were right.
The sunglasses in Jurassic Park, ‘Would it help?’, ’I’m a schoolteacher’, Roy’s walk up the ramp, ‘smile you son of a bitch’ the whole father son thing in Last Crusade.
The Red Dress.
I’ve shared all of them with Caroline, and she’s loved them. I knew she would because she’s the woman I was made to love.
So while that bike ride into the sky was The Moment, there have been plenty. As a laid back guy with a hat and a whip once almost said, 'It's not the years honey, it's the... moments.'
Like I say, thanks.