Thursday 11 August 2011

A night at the movies

So we are in August, deep summer. Even though I rise early every day to dress in formal attire and climb aboard the train to go to a glass office, where I sit at a desk and work, my head and heart tell me its holiday time, and my thoughts are those of a nine-year-old.

Summer holidays are light nights; sitting into the garden until late, inhaling the smell of grass and petrol fumes as the sky turns peach at twilight; a quart of sweets in a crumpled paper bag while devouring a pile of library books; counting out spending money from Nana; and a family outing to see the big summer film.

I am a child of the eighties so the films we saw were big, colourful blockbusters with special effects that we discussed later in hushed tones. They were punctuated by music that dominated the radio channels for weeks and featured soft-faced boy actors on whom to practise early crushes. ET, Star Trek, Gremlins - these were summer to me. Ghostbusters, and that electro-pop theme tune. Superman, after which my mum whooshed up and down the hall with a red towel tucked in the neck of her jumper to make me and my sister giggle.

So tonight I took Grace to see Super 8, a film about kids in summertime, billed as a cross between ET and The Goonies, made by a skilled new director and blessed by King Spielberg. My mum came too, minus the red towel. We bought pick and mix sweeties -- ribbons of fluorescent plastic and sour, sugar-encrusted orbs that seemed unchanged since 1981. We sat back into seats that were fake leather. We watched with excited anticipation as the adverts and the trailers rolled past and the film began.

The opening scene featured grave-faced adults in black suits standing in a kitchen, murmuring in concerned tones about how the father would cope. In the next room a group of kids wearing dental braces and shaggy hairdos made bad taste jokes about the state of the buffet and the state of the body. Outside a boy dressed in an uncomfortable suit sat lonely on a swing in the snow, tracing the outline of a woman's pendant with his fingers.

At this point, Grace leaned over and asked at a normal volume: "Why is he sad?"

I shushed her gently and explained.

A couple of minutes later she asked another question, and again I reminded her to whisper, and explained what was happening.

Not long afterwards the special effects kicked in, with eye-watering pyrotechnics and crashes and bangs that rolled around the room from multiple speakers. Grace put her fingers in her ears, where they remained for the rest of the film. From then on I watched the film in between watching her observing what was playing out in front of her. From time to time, she would ask me why I was laughing and then file away my answer. Regularly, she asked me "why did he do that?" and "what is happening?" Each time I told her and she said "oh", and put her fingers back into her ears.

I so wanted to share this experience with her. It felt like we were communicating through glass.

At the end of the film the music swelled, the characters embraced, the special effects provided a final shiver of excitement and the audience exhaled as one. It was stirring stuff, the moment to laugh and ruffle your kid's hair, or lean in for a kiss and surreptitiously blink away a tear. I found I was very close to crying.

On the way home I asked Grace what her favourite part of the film was. "The end," she answered simply. "I liked what they did when the words went up."

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