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Post-kids, movie magic takes on a new meaning

Bill Linnane


Bill Linnane's wonderful solo trips to the cinema are well and truly over

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Popcorn at the cinema (stock photo)

Popcorn at the cinema (stock photo)

Popcorn at the cinema (stock photo)

Is there anything more splendid than going to the cinema on your own?

There are some who view it as a sad experience — they look down on the solitary cinemagoer as a figure of pity, as they shuffle into the middle of the row with their small drink and medium popcorn, and sit in total silence for the duration of the film, perhaps staying until the credit roll completes, deep in thought.

I look on them with a mixture of nostalgia and envy. I spent my early 20s going to morning showings of films on my own; just me and a random selection of shift workers, the retired and the joyously alone. And it was wonderful — you got in in time, with no loitering in the lobby for dates or mates. You got the seat you wanted, and sat in a reverential silence for two hours with nobody next to you to disrupt the experience.

I miss those days, because now I can’t go anywhere — be it the cinema, hospital or toilet — without several children tagging along.

Look upon me as I waddle along like a depressed opossum, rabid offspring crawling all over me.

Gone are the days of skipping college — where, ironically, I was studying film — to go to the cinema alone and enjoy a good film.

Of course, once you have kids, what qualifies as a good film changes. You stop banging on about mise en scène in La Strada and start to appreciate that the wonder of cinema lies in the ability of the makers of Up to cram all the simple love and tragedy of life into that opening montage. But then you evolve beyond this, and start to really appreciate really bad films.

Films so terrible that it doesn’t matter that your children and the children of others threw popcorn at each other and shouted at the screen from start to finish; films so unbearably bad that nobody cares if all the adults present have their phones out playing Candy Crush.

All that matters is that the little people alongside you enjoyed the film. And so it is that I am here to tell you that while Sonic the Hedgehog is objectively one of the worst films I have seen in some time, it is subjectively one of the best. 

A trip to the cinema for us means three things: the weather is terrible; the children are climbing the walls and I am about to go full Saturn and devour them without salt; or there is something that they really want to see.

I have long given up on the notion that there might be something I want to see, because my wants are a thing of the past. Besides, it’s not all bad, as I have Netflix, so if I want cinematic escapism, I can stay up late pointing and laughing at Marriage Story.

There are films I bring the boys to that appeal to all four of us — by which, I obviously mean, films from the Star Wars or Marvel franchises — but Sonic was all for them. It ticked all the boxes for three boys aged five to 11 — it’s based on a cartoon, based on a video game, in which a hyperactive ball of destruction runs around the place annoying people. It is, as the kids say, relatable content.

There is very little else that anyone needs to know about the film — it stars that good-looking guy who gets hired when you can’t afford Ryan Reynolds, but it also has enough silly jokes, zany special effects and moments of madness that all three sons were entertained for the entire time.

And the glory of cinema isn’t always about that solitary period in the dark, sharing this experience with strangers in total silence — sometimes it’s just savouring the sheer joy of a cinema filled with children screaming in delight when an anthropomorphic hedgehog does The Floss. And on top of all that, I managed a short nap during the middle third and upped my score on Candy Crush during the finale.

So it gets zero stars, but is a definite contender for cinematic experience of the year.

Herald