Well, at last, five minutes to talk about last weekend. It was a break I really needed, but a total delight to get to see Shuffle as well. Basically we had a fairly trouble-free journey down apart from the tedious 2-hour bus replacement service that took us to our first train. Hubby had artfully timed the Saturday journey so that we travelled after the hordes going down from Liverpool to see the FA Cup final, and not only that, but we arrived at our very pleasant hotel in Russell Square just in time to see the second half, which was apparently much better than a somewhat pedestrian first 45 minutes. Liverpool losing did take the gloss off things temporarily, but we soon recovered after a delicious Italian meal at a nearby restaurant.
Most of Sunday was walk-heavy, which explains the very painful blister I have been cosseting all week but which still hasn’t gone away! We went up to St James’s Park to visit the Guards’ Museum there, hubby being interested in all things military and military-band oriented and then watched part of the Changing of the Guard until it got simply too crowded to see anything! After a very agreeable, if slightly drizzly, stroll through the park we set off to do some shopping in the West End, into which I obviously threw myself heart and soul. We ate at Maxwell’s in Covent Garden – best burgers I have ever tasted – and then it was time to set off for the Apollo in Piccadilly Circus and the central attraction of the weekend. This venue was suitably crowded with middle-aged classic sci-fi and fantasy geeks (somehow or other Shuffle’s premiere had got into a science fiction film festival), so I felt very much at home, whereas hubby didn’t feel particularly comfortable but, because of his chosen style of drama-teacher dress, could easily have been mistaken for one of the organisers. They were running slightly behind time as we were ushered into the big, plush theatre, which was very impressive and comfortable, even allowing for the fact that it had been in use most of the day, evidenced by occasional sprays of popcorn on the elegant velour seats. One of the organisers came in to say a few words of introduction and warned us that when he and his helpers had seen the film they had all needed tissues by the end. I felt surreptitiously for the store in my handbag and was reassured. I didn’t cry, though; the whole thing was life affirming, inspiring and happy in much the same mould as Validation or It’s A Wonderful Life.
Now I reach Sharon’s challenge; talk about the film without giving the ending away. Hmm. Well, fundamentally it is all about love, sharing, eternity and the changing of one life which spills over into others. It demands an awful lot of concentration, as the spectator is seeing a life story narrated out of order (well, even a name that is out of order!) and so one is constantly trying to sort out cause and effect. I still don’t know if I have the timing of the central event, which kicks it all off, straight in my mind, and I’d like to see the film again to try to pick up more of the subtle clues with which it is strewn. Comfortingly, it’s as if you are meeting a group of your best friends, people you have already seen either in Bones or in Theatre Junkies’ other work (even the people who don’t actually appear, like Douglas Abel, are familiar in the credits), so you kind of relax in their experienced company and let the story tell itself. The look of the thing is just gorgeous, as you will have registered from the trailer; there is a silvery glow about their use of black and white that is entirely appropriate, not just for the dreamlike quality of the life being lived out of order, but also for the glimmer of the happiest times, like little gems shining along the way. This is enhanced by some quality camerawork and some extremely good make up/prosthetics, the latter of which give TJ a convincing 92-year-old profile.
TJ is predictably excellent as the hub of all this, Lovell Milo, a benighted young man who is afflicted, like his father before him (and that is an important plot point), with narcolepsy. TJ rises effortlessly to the various emotional challenges; bewilderment, frustration, sorrow, despair, delight, fury, resentment, loss. He is always the centre of things and that must be pretty hard to play. There is some great comedy also, as when he awakens in the middle of a one-night stand (“Did you just fall asleep on me?” demands his understandably furious date).
Even on those occasions when he is older, Lovell comes over as a lost child trying to make sense of a disjointed grown-up world about him, especially in his relationship with his father. Children are significant everywhere; the childhood friend who becomes a lover, the mysterious little girl who first tells him to ‘pay attention’ and the strange, initially incomprehensible, fact that at times he seems completely against the idea of a child of his own and at others keen to have one. Indeed, it is his own child that unwittingly brings about something of a revelation and a reconciliation at the end.
The fact that Lovell is a photographer, an artist, and a very good one at that, whose childhood talent is initially dismissed by a control freak of a parent, seems to me to play a part in our understanding of the narrative (that would be apart from the link to Validation). The little vignettes he experiences of snatches of his own life are very like snapshots spread out in front of him, and photos on display sometimes give us clues as to the order things should be in. And as should be the case in a film about time, not in the linear sense in which we imagine we live it, but in the real sense of every bit of it being present in our minds all the time, the watch Lovell is wearing becomes symbolic too.
I thoroughly enjoyed this and I wish you could all see it easily – it’s a classy piece of work, moving fluently and delicately through some very difficult concepts which tip from the fantastic into the spiritual, at the same time as dealing with a whole spectrum of relationship problems in an original manner. Food for thought, TJ; worth every minute of that uncomfortable bus journey and the equally convoluted trip home on Monday. Roll on the DVD release.
So Sherry, did I beat your length record yet??
word count: 1144
"We make our lives out of chaos and hope. And love." - Angela Montenegro