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.