carry on screaming

I was a movie addict in need of a fix...but there was only one small problem by Emma Pickett


In June of this year I spent more than 100 on going to the cinema (not including tubs of malteasers and ice cream bars). In August I spent zero. What happened? Am I writing from HMP Holloway? No. I had a baby, Sam, born 6 pounds 2 oz at the Royal Free Hospital. After years of excessive cinema going I was forced to go cold turkey. I will admit I was previously a bit excessive. Regularly I would see a film alone and then happily pay another 8 to go again with my husband or a friend. I saw Gladiator four times to the tune of thirty odd pounds. I saw the first Harry Potter three times. The worst offence was when I paid to see When Harry Met Sally five times [No, the worst offence was the Harry Potter one - Ed]. Surely they should just send me the DVD for free on release?

Sam: unimpressed by Van Helsing, pre-birth

During pregnancy I noticed my priorities beginning to change. The Notebook starring James Garner had me in floods of hormonal tears. During Van Helsing I feebly attempted to shield my baby bump from vampire screams with my jacket. When I realised the film was in fact one long vampire scream I left half way through as I wasn't prepared to emotional scar my baby for the sake of a two star film. When the baby came I had wild fantasies of hiding him sleeping under my shirt as I snuck into the local Vue.

I soon discovered babies rarely sleep when you want them to and that if they do you have other things to occupy you like eating and putting on clothes. Perhaps instead I could become a doyen of rental DVD. I could join one of those internet services and wheel the pram down to the local post office to send them back. Now that Sam has arrived even home viewing has been limited. Some films don't warrant constant pausing. I had to go and read the Empire review of 21 Grams half way through before I lost it completely.

21 Grams: nipple action went down well

There is also the matter of the baby watching the unsuitable. I can't bring myself to watch Kill Bill in his presence. Although I decided Sean Penn sucking Naomi Watts' nipple wasn't a problem in 21 Grams. I was resigning myself to accepting cinema was a hobby from my past. I drove past the local multiplex and no longer recognised all the titles displayed outside. Receiving my subscription of Empire magazine left me feeling a bit a bit of a fraud. When friends came to visit they were required to retell every film they had seen. One colleague came to see Sam and was forced to spend 30 minutes describing The Village. I know the film in such detail I'm sure I could pretend to have seen it if ever in need of a criminal alibi.

Then a local midwife told me of something magical. The Hampstead Everyman has their 'Scream' screening every Thursday at noon. You can only enter if you are accompanied by a baby under 12 months. The censor has decreed that if the baby is less than a year they can happily watch 18 and 15 films and it won't sink in. I'm not sure I quite embrace that theory as my behaviour during Van Helsing indicates but for my first outing the certificate was not a problem. Sam's first ever film would be Bride and Prejudice. I arrived at the Everyman early and was greeted by an employee who was to spend the next 30 minutes carrying pushchairs up and down stairs. In the screen itself the seats were velvet sofas and comfy chairs and soon each one was occupied by two people - one small one sitting on the lap of a big one. The experienced laid out blankets, bottles and changing mats and the film began.  

Right: Sam - Bride and Prejudice hit the spot

It was of course the perfect baby film with Bollywood songs and bright colours. As the film progressed some babies lost interest and parents rose to jiggle them at the back. Mothers popped in and out to change nappies. Sam began screaming at rather a crucial stage and I was forced to go outside into a forest of prams. I returned to find Darcy and 'Elizabeth' already involved. Luckily with this film I already knew how things would move along but I'm not sure how 21 Grams would have worked in such an environment.

When the lights went up we were told to stay in our seats for a surprise and out came the director Gurinder Chadha. Apparently someone at the Everyman knew her dentist and had told her of the 'Scream' and she had found the idea amusing. She did a quick Q&A where we learned the female star had had a 'no kissing' clause in her contract so not to offend her Indian fans.

Bride and Prejudice: Hindu Chick Flick

Her photo was taken for the local paper surrounded by infants and then a journalist from the BBC World Service tapped me on the shoulder and asked to interview me. I gabbled in my enthusiasm at finally seeing a film in the cinema and I could see from her eyes glazing over that I was not about to make the final edit. Ultimately it was a satisfying experience although Sam needs to learn quickly I do not intend to miss the climax of every film. I also explained to him on the way home it's not standard to sit on velvet sofas and get to speak to the director at the end. I think he's hoping next time for another nipple scene.

©emma pickett 2004


Everyman Cinema, 5 Holly Bush Vale, Hampstead, London NW3 6TX    Tel: 0870 066 4777    Web: everymancinema.com

Bride and Prejudice (2004)   Cert PG   Director Gurinder Chadha   Starring Aishwarya Rai, Martin Henderson Writer Paul Mayeda Berges, based on the novel Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen