Cinema vigilante

A cold Sunday afternoon in West London.  Snow is lightly falling on Day 10 of my house imprisonment.  My last shower was Tuesday, and only owing to an appointment with my consultant.  Showering while sitting on the tiles with a leg propped up on a stool is not to be undertaken without reason.  My greasy hair is wrapped up in a full headscarf, chemo-style.  I have an inexplicable rash over my forehead – a reaction to the pain killers?  In a seated position I steadily get myself down the stairs, step-by-step.  I place my crutches over my lap and sit in the communal reception area to wait for a taxi to Shepherd’s Bush.  I’m going to see a movie.

Watching films is a source of deep pleasure for me.  For two hours I get to be told a story.  For two hours I’m taken to another world.  I sit in the cinema with twenty others and wait for the modern-day bard to transfix me.

Two teenage girls move from where they’re sitting to the previously empty row behind me.  One of them puts her shoeless feet up on the seat beside mine.  Let it go, Simone.  Pick your battles.  They talk for the entire duration of the trailers.  Again, Simone, let it go; you know there’s a good chance you’ll have a bigger battle with these two.  The movie starts, they keep talking.  I look at my watch.  They have three minutes.

Three minutes pass.

Me: Excuse me, can you stop talking now. (I pause) And take your feet off the seat.

I hear my Australian accent; flat, low and masculine.  It sounds more threatening and aggressive than I intended and the girls get a fright.  My grotesque shopping-trolley-pushing, pigeon-feeding-lady appearance probably helped.  As I turn to look back at the screen I struggle to contain my grin.

Ten minutes pass and two women in their late twenties arrive.  Lateness annoys me.  Lateness for movies really annoys me.  They take their seats on the opposite side of the cinema, one row back.  In a few minutes one of them receives a text message (I see her phone glow).  They start talking.  Twenty minutes later they’re still talking.  Empowered by my success with the teenagers, I rise and hobble over to them; crippled, greasy and rash-ridden.

Me: Excuse me, can you not talk through the movie?  If you don’t want to watch it, you can leave.

They’re horrified and obsequiously apologise.  I return to my seat.

Forty minutes later something goes wrong with the projector and an orange rectangle of light covers a third of the screen.  The audience shuffle about and murmur to each other, expressing their discontent.  The restlessness continues but no one does anything.  My rage at the apathy and cowardice intensifies.  A woman in front of me uses her iPhone to take photos of the faulty screen, presumably as evidence to substantiate her complaint  … when the movie’s over.  After fifteen minutes I’ve reached my tipping point and I stand.

Can someone please go out and say something about the screen?  I’d go, but I have a broken foot.” (I raise a crutch to emphasise my point)

A man jumps up “I’ll go!”  His motivation, I strongly suspect, is to impress his new girlfriend with his sudden can-do, take-control action; action that had been absent for the previous fifteen minutes.

I thank him.  Whatever his motivation, I’m grateful.

A few others speak supportively, including the woman who took the photo “Are you going to complain at the end?  I took photos to show them.

I struggle to not roll my eyes as I smile politely “I haven’t really got the energy.  I mean, it’s too late by then and I’ve already dealt with the talkers.”  I gesture to the teenagers behind me and the women opposite, deriving gratification from their embarrassment.

The screen regains its normal appearance and I sit down.  I’m angry at the rudeness of the talkers; the rudeness of the latecomers; the lack of staff to control the audience, and, in this case, even ensure the movie runs effectively.  But most of all I’m angry at the indifferent and listless attitude of people.  If there’s a problem you can do something about, DO something about it!  Don’t just sit and complain when you can rectify it.  (And if your first instinct is to seek compensation for the fault then there are a host of questions you need to ask yourself).  Take action.  Fix the problems you can fix!  And, above all, don’t get in the way of me and the magic of movies.


My invalid condition is clearly stoking the fire of my fury, but I stand by the fact that “Cloud Atlas” is the worst movie I’ve seen in many years.  And I watch made-for-TV, true-life dramas screened on True Entertainment (when hungover or under the influence of painkillers).  Abysmal.  The only reason I didn’t walk out (aside from the fact that I can’t currently walk without taking too long or looking ridiculous) was that I had made such a scene about watching the movie (I recognise the irony).  I will never get those 172 minutes back.

10 responses to “Cinema vigilante

  1. Your father would have been so proud of you. Your post make my day, I’m glad your self imposed break didn’t last long.


    • When I was in Australia Dad and I went to see Snow White and the Huntsman. Dad got so angry at how loudly the woman seated next to him was eating that he suddenly got up and moved to a seat a few rows behind me. I was left there not knowing exactly why he’d abandoned me, but knowing it would have had to have been from someone around him causing him some sort of “unbearable” irritation (which could be anything when it comes to my Dad, as you know!). He cannot stand people talking during movies. In fact, he won’t even allow anyone to sit next to him – myself included! There has to be a vacant seat on either side of him … he certainly has his quirks 🙂

  2. I can relate to that, too. In fact, reading this both irritated and amused me, because I cannot stand people that go to the cinema to do things other than watch the bloody film, which is what you’ve paid for. And I don’t mean teenagers who go there to snog, because as long as they don’t disturb my viewing pleasure (of the film!!) I’m not fussed. Chris regularly intimidates talkers by sharply turning his head in their direction and loudly clicking his tongue. Then again, he is a big lad…

    • Good on Chris! My hat goes off to him 🙂 My ex used to go completely mental at people causing disruption during movies – it was a sight to behold. Unfortunately the role of silencer rests with me now, and I definitely don’t have his level of rage.

  3. Yes. I agree. TAKE ACTION! There are far too many people simply taking a passive ride through life instead of being proactive and making a difference.

    • Oh don’t get me started. I don’t understand how so many people are unhappy/discontented/annoyed about something but do nothing about it. What do they think is going to change if they don’t change it? It’s baffling to me.

  4. You’ll remember my stint as usher in Kyabram. I take action in seconds of any idiot disrupting my viewing pleasure.

    As to Cloud Atlas: you know that the Wachowskis haven’t made a good movie since Matrix 1, right?

    • Oh god yes, I’d forgotten about your ushering days in sunny old Kyabram!

      I am aware of that, but the fact is they DID make The Matrix, which means they could make another decent movie. Unfortunately for me, I always seem to have hope. And hope begets expectation, and expectation begets disappointment. If I could give up hope for all things and all people, I’d be much happier 🙂

      Django was very good and I saw that fairly recently. And I’m still basking in the afterglow of Killer Joe – I loved that. I have hope for Broken City and I doubt I’ll be disappointed (movies, like animals, disappointment me much less frequently than people).

  5. I felt your fury just reading that! Why do people pay money to watch a film to then chat?! So bloody annoying! I fully support the idea of cinema police.

    Why is it always you or me that has to be proactive in getting things resolved?!

    Bloody idiots.

    • 1) Nice use of the word bloody. I’m always a fan of “bloody” – reminds me of my Dad who uses it for almost every adjective (For example, and put a very Australian accent on this “I was walking down the bloody road, then saw a bloody cat sitting in the middle of the bloody driveway … ”).

      2) I would accept the position of Cinema Policewoman – but I want a uniform, gun, truncheon . . . and handcuffs 😉

      3) It IS always people like us who end up sorting stuff out. That’s exactly what I was thinking as I was sitting there waiting for ANYONE to sort out the dodgy screen.

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