‘Toy Story 3’ downstairs, ‘A Single Man’ upstairs

Last week I enjoyed a novel experience of movie consumption; a form of compare and contrast that, left to my own devices, I might not have thought about.

Over a period of two days I watched ‘Toy Story 3’ and ‘A Single Man’ in two parts each.  ‘Toy Story 3’ with my friend’s children downstairs before supper, and then, after the children were all in bed but before the long day caught up with us, ‘A Single Man’, upstairs.

The only things these films have in common are the circumstances in which I watched them and the fact that I enjoyed them both.

I had seen ‘A Single Man’ before at the cinema, but it rewarded a second viewing, as I saw new moments of dry humour as well as more of the layer of melancholy that clothes the film.

It was my first viewing of ‘Toy Story 3’, and I must admit that, while watching it with 4 children is probably what you’re meant to do, I didn’t catch every step in the adventure.

One interesting aspect of the experience of viewing these two film juxtaposed with each other is that the animated cartoon made me cry while the story of a bereaved man, frozen by grief which affected me with a feeling of deep melancholy, didn’t.

It set me wondering.

Am I manipulated into tears by the sentimental in the polished Pixar product?  Or is the sleek direction of Tom Ford too cold and distant to involve me emotionally?  What do my tears mean anyway?  Will I remember the melancholy of ‘A Single Man’ longer than the tears at the end of ‘Toy Story’?

When we were still only a few minutes into watching ‘Toy Story 3’ the children told me ‘Mummy cried at the end, but it’s not really sad.’

She then said ‘I cried twice!’

So I laughed when the children did at Buzz speaking Spanish and romancing the cowgirl, and I paid special attention when they told me ‘the next bit’s really good’ and was aware of them watching me out of the corner of their eyes as the end of the movie approached.

And sure enough I developed a sentimental lump in my throat when the toys all joined hands as they approached the incinerator, and then real tears when Andy said good bye to them all.

All the children laughed at the funny way adults behave when it’s not even sad.

‘A Single Man’ is, on the other hand, profoundly sad.  Colin Firth’s performance is extraordinary.  He shows a person overwhelmed by grief but refusing to show it to the world. Instead he closes down and seeks to impose order on everything, with tidy drawers in a tidy house where his clothes are laid out meticulously, and where he is so anxious not to create a mess when he shoots himself that he cocoons himself in a sleeping bag.

Maybe the identification with that dread of being alone and bereaved is too great, and that weeping along to the film would  somehow trivialise the depth of emotion?

I have no idea.  I wish I understood the psychology of it, but I shall be observing my reactions to film more closely in that regard in the future.

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