What the hell is wrong with me? Some films, although gut wrenchingly sad, never ever used to affect me emotionally. If they did, I was great at supressing it, not so much as a sniff or errant tear. I guess as a younger guy I could brave such films with a composure of manly toughness and no need to reach for the tissues. (well, different kinds of films needed tissues for different reasons that I won’t go into here) The only time I would shed any tears is from when I’d be laughing too hard at a comedy.
Yes I would have strong feelings for sad scenes, but I never found that my body would react, connecting with my brain in an emotional way….. particularly the tear ducts, the shaky bottom lip and that damn lump in the throat, blubbing like a little girl with a skinned knee. (Well, maybe not that far but still, tears streaming down the face, a sniffly nose and a lumpy throat then but hardly a broken down mess of a man….no, really) This never used to happen until recent years and it’s uncomfortably embarrassing, especially when viewing a film with the Wife, kids, friends or family present.
Now I find myself having to pretend to scratch my eye or make some innocuous comment, trying to be witty to steer my own mind away from engaging too deeply with the characters on screen for fear of exposing my true emotions to all and sundry. I guess this speaks more to the human male condition than anything. We’re men, we lift heavy shit, we can drink like fish and tell filthy jokes, smack our wives on the arse whilst blurting out a sexist comment in an effort to rile them up because they’re cute when they’re angry, watch sports with burly men basically beating the shit out of each other over control of a leather ball, fix cars and wreck them, build things and wreck them, be a strong father figure that your children can look up to with pride and respect and generally be chest beating loud asshole blokey blokes. There’s no room for a blubbering crybaby in that equation. So what does a guy do when Robin Williams is telling Matt Damon that “it’s not your fault” over and over? Someone call me a Waaahmbulance.
This was an issue I had last night whilst watching Good Will Hunting. I initially set out to do a retro review of one of my favourite films for this site, even though I have seen this film many times and even after watching I still choked up in certain scenes, noticeably worse last night than ever before. What the hell is happening here? I know this film inside out, so why all of a sudden is it reaching into me on a level that only my dog dying recently could get to? Thankfully, everyone was in bed, but it didn’t stop me from feeling like Kurt Russell’s character in Soldier when he cries for the first time in his life and rubs away the tears in a confused state of “what the fuck?” Seriously, Good Will Hunting? I’d hate to see what happens to me when I sit and watch Once Were Warriors again. Jesus Christ, if I do it’ll definitely be an occasion where I view it alone. Once Were Warriors was the first time I can recall when I was physically affected by a film where I had to disguise the fact that I was becoming quite upset amongst other people in the same room watching it with me. Since then, I’ve gradually gotten worse, to the point where I fear I’ll turn out like my Mother who can weep at the drop of a hat at sad scenes in films. I used to make fun of her and everything. I guess we really do become our parents. Nooooooooo!
I can equate many new emotions coming to the fore because of simply becoming a parent. Heck, I started welling up when Nemo’s mother and siblings were eaten by a predator and also when he was taken by the dentist diver. This is a kids movie for Christ’s sake! I can’t even keep my emotions in check for this? Am I becoming a complete sookie-la-la? I was positively distressed when Wall-E was crushed. Could I sit through a viewing of Bambi with my kids and retain my composure as a strong adult? Not bloody likely. I’ve never even seen Bambi, I have it on the shelf in my wife’s extensive Disney collection but I dare not put it on. I’d rather watch “A Serbian Film”. I’ve heard too many stories of how people were affected by “that” scene in Bambi as children and it still upsets them today. I would be certifiably distraught I’d imagine so I’ll leave that one alone. The kids can watch that one on their own volition. Disney are great at messing with the parents emotions while watching films with their children, leaving many a parent saying to the kids that something just got in their eye and that’s all.
The thing that annoys me the most is tearing up in a movie I hate. How dare a film that I hate affect me on an emotional level. Let’s look at Titanic as an example. This is a film where only the part of the titanic sinking is the interesting bit and the entirely fabricated story of the main protagonists is laughable at best. Still, the end affected me. The preposterous City of Angles starring the inimitable Nic Cage even brought forth a response as did Will Smith’s dog dying in I Am Legend. These movies were awful but I guess we can’t discount the fact that a small slice of convincing acting is all that is required to engage the viewer, regardless of a film sucking or blowing. Ghost for instance wasn’t entirely awful, but it wasn’t the greatest and yet, the ending goodbye scene chokes me up. Sandra Bullock’s The Blind Side, although maligned by many a critic, still got to me in certain scenes. There are too many films to mention that I never liked but still had a twinge of tearjerk about them.
I guess the ultimate irony of this article is that I’m admitting I do this on possibly the most public forum out there that is the intrawebz, particularly after just mentioning that its something I like to keep under wraps. Now everyone who reads this will know the truth but you know what? I don’t care. Telling people this happens as opposed to having people see me do it is a different thing entirely. I can tell you, but you’ll NEVER see it personally. No matter what the film, regardless of whether it is good or bad, it can affect me on an emotional level if it has something unfair and unjust happening to someone or something that doesn’t deserve it. Here is where I once again mention District 9 in one of my articles as if I seemingly have some kind of under the table promotional agreement with Peter Jackson and Neill Blomkamp, but this was the first film I teared up for a completely CG character. The character of Christopher Johnson in District 9 is so brilliantly handled that I just wanted to give that hideous looking squid faced alien and his son a cuddle and tell them it will all be alright. Well done again WETA Studios.
I’ve recently wanted to revisit E.T. again after my last article about aliens but all I can think about is when he’s lying in that stream, all white and sickly from exposure to the elements and three quarters dead. I can’t bring myself to want to see that again. It traumatized me as a child and I haven’t seen it in over 20 years but that scene is as clear as day to me. I will be a veritable mess when I see that again this time around. Why would someone want to put themselves through that? Even though I know the ending and it all pans out great, I can’t bear to see the childlike innocence of the intergalactic botanist that is E.T. lying there in a torturous, physically painful state. It’s not fair dammit! Though life rarely is. Case in point with much more harder hitting films like Children of Men, Savior and Apocalypto, where babies are involved in horrific circumstances and as a parent it utterly horrifies and exacerbates the emotion ten fold.
There is also the very odd occasion where a scene will illicit a beyond happy response and I’ll tear up then like a real sissy as well. Regarding Henry’s scene where Harrison Ford returns to his wife at the end after previously storming off made me blub. This is a much rarer occurrence though and the sniffles are usually reserved for the more dreary depressing moments of film. I haven’t seen Toy Story 3 yet but from what I’ve heard it’s not going to go well for me. Particularly when people say “if you don’t cry when you watch this film, you have no soul!” This leads me to believe that I’ll be in quite a state as I’ve grown to love all of the characters in that film and it even puts me off ever wanting to watch it, believe it or not.
What films affect you in this way? Are you at one with your sissyness or are you not perturbed in the slightest? Maybe it’s because I invest myself too far into the minds of characters in films, it hits me harder than it used to……or maybe I just need to harden the fuck up. I guess I can equate this whole article down to one simple sentence…..”When pure innocence is crushed unfairly on screen, I will most certainly turn into a big crybaby girly man.” There, I said it……can you?
Now……Where do I hand in my Man Card?