Singledom bites at 6.48pm on a Saturday

On average, I feel most single at 6.48pm on a Saturday. Oddly specific, but as today’s 6.48pm on a Saturday reminded me, totally accurate.

I’m writing this part of this post whilst on the leaning section of the tube. You know the bit, by the doors. But on the side where the doors won’t open, at least on this leg of the journey. Jubilee Line at Green Park if you want me to continue the theme of oddly specific details. I had my spot all sorted, head deep in a book when, on either side of me a couple (both male/female) took up residence. In both instances with little interest or awareness that they had ended up being incredibly close to me and were in fact intruding on my personal space. The person they were with was their world, all that matters is that their person was safe and comfortable. 

Both assumed the position heterosexual couples subconsciously seem to find themselves in these situations. Her tucked up against the plastic divider, he the warrior defending her. He helping her stand in case she falls, two world-weary people leaning on each other, safe in the knowledge that no matter what happens – they’ve got each other. No matter the scenario that arises in this journey, they have a partner to accompany them as they face it.

I know full well this is an idealised view. Any number of things could have happened in their day and could await them after this journey. The arguments, fights and betrayals that could await them. But, from the outside anyway, they look sedate. Safe. At peace. Found.

That’s when I feel the pang, that want for what they have – or what it looks like they have. 

I’m journeying home from a fantastic day with my best friend. We saw a superb comedy show, having a taste of normality in amongst the chaos of the last 18 months. I’m going back to my awesome housemate. I might even watch the football. You never know, we may even win it.

But right now, all I can feel is this pang that defies all logic. I’m 6 weeks away from my 29th birthday and I have never experienced what these couples have right now. I’ve never had someone to lean on like that, with this degree of intimate certainty. And this pang is reverberating in my bones – rattling and ricocheting along until, as hyperbolic as it sounds, it makes my eyes water.

I don’t need what they have. I’ve never had it, and I’ve made do without it for this long. I also literally don’t need it. At 6ft tall and built like a Viking – I don’t need someone to bodyguard me on the tube. Statistically speaking, when it comes to average heights and builds of a man in the UK, there’s very few who’d literally be able to achieve this physically so I rarely entertain the notion of it ever happening in the way these couples are curled into each other right now..!

But I want it. And I feel like I’m meant to feel embarrassed about admitting this to you, whoever you wonderful people are who read my ramblings. But I’m not.

The only way to keep navigating the hellhole that is dating is to maintain hope. Like with anything in life, we hope that things happen for a reason – that our lives are structured in a certain way, with certain things happening (or not happening) at certain times, for a certain purpose. One which we may never understand, but the fortuitous fruits of which we will always appreciate.

One of my maaaany self-deprecating jokes when someone – usually a very comfortably coupled someone – asks after my non-existent love life is to respond ‘Well, you know what – I’m starting to think maybe the factory shut for the day after making me and they forgot to make my partner!’ It’s self-defence 101, cloaking a genuine and innate fear with a half-hearted laugh and an accompanying good-humoured slap on the table. Desperately concealing the depleting quantity of hope retained in my body, which seems to face surge charge deductions at 6.48pm on a Saturday.

But, as I wearily look ahead to the speed dating event I’m going to on Tuesday, if I want to find my tube buddy – I need to keep trying and keep that hope going. I need to innately rely on the universe revealing my person and their having a reason for having kept me waiting for so long.

And, on one Saturday in the future, it’ll be 6.48pm and I’ll know it was all worth it.

Stream On Vol.2

Looking for some film recommendations to get you through the Bank Holiday Weekend? Well, look no further! Here’s five top picks for your delectation. Not enough for you? Check out last week’s edition here.

Saint Frances (2019 – Netflix – 101 mins)

Bridget (Kelly O’Sullivan) is 34 and hugely adrift, in all aspects of her life. The opportunity arises to nanny a 6 year-old girl (a spectacular Ramona Edith Williams) whose parents are expecting their second child, which is forcing all manner of adjustments for all the family. An unlikely friendship forms between Bridget and Frances, and it’s such a joy to follow. An immensely likeable and utterly charming watch.

The Edge of Seventeen (2016 – Netflix – 104 mins)

Nadine’s (Hailee Steinfeld) life sucks. It’s always been sucky, she’s never quite fitted in or been all that happy – but she had her beloved dad to support her and her best friend Krista (Haley Lu Richardson) always by her side. But since her dad’s death it seemed things couldn’t get any worse – until Krista starts dating Nadine’s horrifically popular brother (Blake Jenner). Steinfeld is fantastic as the embittered beyond her years teen, with fantastic supporting performances courtesy of Woody Harrelson as Nadine’s jaded teacher and Hayden Szeto as the would-be friend could-be more – if Nadine could finally pay attention to anyone but herself. A classic of the teen movie genre.

Bumblebee (2018 – Film4 – 114 mins)

Speaking of Hailee Steinfeld, she’s also fantastic in this sci-fi gem which just happens to be the finest of the Transformers franchise. By a long, long, long shot. It feels like a throwback to vintage Spielberg, a lost teen finding solace and a sense of self in a new-found friendship with a being from another planet. The soundtrack is an 80s fest banger – if you’re looking for an action packed romp packed full of heart, this is the droid (Autobot) you’re looking for.

The Mauritanian (2021 – Amazon Prime – 129 mins)

Based on a true story, Mohamedou Ould Slahi (Tahar Rahim) was detained and imprisoned by the US government for years without charge and without trial. Lawyers Nancy (Jodie Foster) and Teri (Shailene Woodley) are fighting for his freedom. Military prosecutor Stuart (Benedict Cumberbatch) is fighting for the death penalty. A riveting legal drama that is at times difficult to watch, packed full of excellent performances – Rahim is a charismatic powerhouse, able to convey harrowing depths with his extraordinary performance.

The Way, Way Back (2013 – Disney+ – 103 mins)

With summer on it’s way, why not watch this underseen gem which is one of the finest coming of age movies of the 21st Century? Duncan (Liam James) is being forced to spend his summer vacation with his mum Pam (Toni Collette) and her newish boyfriend Trent (Steve Carell). Whilst he’d much rather be spending the holidays with his dad, he’s forced into a strange role of not-quite child and not-quite adult attending hangouts with Trent’s friends (Allison Janney, Rob Corddry and Amanda Peet) and feeling fully isolated. A job offer from unexpected friend and water park manager Owen (Sam Rockwell) offers escape but the possibilities of so much more. I cannot sing the praises of this film often enough. Just wonderful.

Stream On Vol.1

After a longer than planned or intended break, it’s time for me to get back to my weekly film recommendations. Along the lines of my previous feature Something To Watch Saturdays (all available here), each week I’ll suggest 5 film recommendations from your favourite streaming sites to keep you entertained till UK cinemas reopen on May 17th (51 days folks). Now under a new name, that should be sung to the tune of this Aerosmith banger. If you decide to watch any of the below, let me know your thoughts by getting in touch via twitter or Instagram at @sometimesmovies. Now, time to Stream On…

Blinded By The Light (2019 – 118 minutes – Netflix)

In England in 1987, a teenager from an Asian family learns to live his life, understand his family and find his own voice through the music of American rock star Bruce Springsteen. Partially based on a true story, that of writer Sarfraz Manzoor, the result is a film that is so charming and feelgood, and nigh-on impossible not to be charmed by.

The Sisters Brothers (2018 – 122 minutes – Netflix)

John C. Reilly, Joaquin Phoenix, Jake Gyllenhaal and Riz Ahmed in a familiar yet often unexpected Western journey. Unique in tone – think buddy road trip, meets oddball humour and the brutality of the Wild West – this one that fully went under the radar upon release and really deserves a visit.

Love & Mercy (2014 – 113 minutes – BBC iplayer)

Quite possibly the finest music biopic from the past decade – at least – we follow Beach Boys founder Brian Wilson in both the 60s (when played by Paul Dano) and the 80s (John Cusack). In both eras he is a man on the edge, broken by mental health issues and addiction, to heartbreaking extents. An extraordinarily and inanimate look at the life of a musical pioneer, whose beach soundtracks belied much darkness.

One Night In Miami… (2020 – 114 minutes – Amazon Prime)

Based on a play, covering a factional night where Malcom X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Cassius Clay (Eli Goree), Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge) and Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.) got together, this film is packed full of powerhouse performances. Reflecting on the Civil Rights Movement and the cultural upheaval of the 1960s, particularly America but in turn around the world, Regina King has directed a sublimely reflective film about the notion of celebrity and influence. Something of a slow burn, loaded with one-two gut punches. Very moving.

Dreams Of A Life (2011 – 95 minutes – All4)

Joyce Vincent’s died in a London bedsit in 2003. Her body wasn’t found for three years. With this part-documentary/part-drama, Carol Morley explores Vincent’s life, how a vivacious and much-loved woman could have been left for so long-unnoticed, through insights from her friends and family & recreation from Zawe Ashton as Vincent. A remarkable and essential watch.

Pick of the Week #6

Check out the back catalogue: #1, #2, #3, #4 and #5.

Book: I Have No Secrets by Penny Joelson (99p on Kindle)

This novel is an excellent crime novel, suited for all ages 9+ – both adults and young people will get something from reading it. It’s the story of Jemma, a 14-year-old with cerebral palsy. She can’t walk or talk or even move without assistance, which means most people seem to forget she can think and understand too. Which is why she feels utterly powerless when her carer’s boyfriend taunts her with the information that he committed a recent murder – an original and gripping thriller. The kind you’ll find yourself desperate to read in one go as you just *need* to know what happens next.

Film: The Personal History of David Copperfield (Amazon Prime)

 Director Armando Lannuci is best known for darkly funny political comedies like The Thick Of It, Veep and The Death Of Stalin. For him to make a PG adaptation of a Charles Dickens novel felt something of a choice… Yet it really paid off, with this hilariously charming movie. Dev Patel is wonderful in the central role of David Copperfield, a man whose entire life has seen him constantly bouncing between rags and riches. A wholesome and riotously funny period drama – with a cast including Tilda Swinton, Hugh Laurie, Peter Capaldi, Gwendoline Christie and Benedict Wong – to name but a few), this really is one for all the family.

TV: Soulmates (Amazon Prime)

Brett Goldstein is one of the current British stars-on-the-rise. Last year was especially good for him, with the Apple TV+ hit Ted Lasso (which he co wrote and starred in) receiving critical and commercial acclaim. Now we have this, which he co-wrote and created, an anthology series made up of six episodes. It’s 2023 and there is now technology which can read your DNA and reveal the identity of your soulmate. Each episode follows the impact the test has on a person or coupling. The most obvious point of comparison would be Black Mirror, but this one is slightly more of a character study – focusing on the micro in relationships and the consequences a test like this could or would have. 

Song: World Shut Your Mouth by Julian Cope

I love listening to this show on a Monday morning when making my coffee. I also love sing-shouting along to music. So I’ve picked this tune, which my dad used to play in the car and my brother and I would yell along with.

Pick of the Week #1

I’ve decided I’m going to rebrand some of my regular features here. This one will replace TV Tuesdays. I’ve started a stint on our school radio station doing weekly recommendations, so I thought I’d share them here too. Here’s the back catalogue of TV Tuesdays: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5 , #6 and #7.

Tv: Pandemonium 

Shown over the Festive period, and currently a one-off sitcom at only 29 minutes long, this is a bit of gem. It’s one of the few shows so far to have been filed, set in pandemic and is about the effect it has on families – told in a darkly comic way. We see the family on their October holiday – determined to have a family break even if won’t be as good as that trip-of-a-lifetime to the states they had planned. The editing, cutting between October and earlier in the year, is just so superb. Bitterly funny and with some winning lines from Alison Steadman.

Film: Wild Rose

There’s this tradition in British cinema for underdog stories – of those with unlikely talents in unlikely positions dreaming of more. This is up there with the best of them, with Glaswegian Rose (played by Jessie Buckley) dreaming of being a country singing sensation and a life beyond on the estate she lives on. Sad yet hopeful, and so feelgood.

Book: This Time Next Year by Sophie Cousens

As a unabashed and unashamed fan of the romcom, I end up reading a lot of them. This top tier, needs to be adapted into a tv series asap. Minnie ends up spending New Year’s Eve locked in a toilet cubicle, rescued hours into the New Year by Quinn. It turns out it’s not their first meeting, and it certainly won’t be their last. Hoping between povs and different time periods – this book beautifully balances very romantic romance with hysterical comedy.

Song: “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” by Sylvester

Released in 1978, in a time where there was so much turmoil in lots of communities across the world, this disco anthem incredible for how it’s a joyous celebration of love and life, finding hope and happiness within the dark times -which feels apt for these times we currently find ourselves in.

STWS #15

Welcome back. Lovely to see you again, even if the circumstances (what with Lockdown 3.0 and the world on fire) are decidedly less than desirable. As always, what follows are 7 film recommendations to help you with your picking what to watch.

Here’s the back catalogue: – #1#2#3, #4#5#6#7#8#9 , #10#11#12 #13 and #14.

Dredd (2012 – 85 mins – Netflix)

It’s taken over 8 years and counting, but it feels like Dredd is finally getting some of the recognition it deserves. One of the most underseen comic book movies as well as being one of the finest of the genre. It’s a fantastic take on the 2000 AD comic strip Judge Dredd with Karl Urban (currently most recognisable for his leading role in Amazon’s The Boys) playing the eponymous law enforcer. It’s brutal (strong 18) with incredible special effects, a tau thriller of a narrative and packed full of dark humour.

Pepe the Frog: Feels Good Man (2020 – 92 mins – BBC iPlayer)

I’ve slowly but surely been working my way through the Storyville series on BBC iPlayer. It’s a documentary strand that currently comprises 35 contemporary and challenging documentaries from different filmmakers gathered from across the globe. Some are familiar titles, otten with titles slightly edited, and some are unknown gems – like this one was for me. Loosely aware of the Pepe the Frog meme but knowing nothing about the context in which it was created or how it has since been horrifically warbed and used in terrifying ways, I went in totally blind with this one. Wow. Seeing this just days before the events in Washington this week added a horrific timeliness and an answer of sorts to the question ‘How did we get to this point?’

Casablanca (1942 – 102 mins – BBC iPlayer)

I started to really get into film when I was twelve. For the next few years I’d have these phases we’re I’d discover a genre/theme/actor and obsessively get into it. My discovery of Casablanca, somewhat oddly, happened in my Summer of Film Noir (yep, I was one cool kid…) If you’re yet to see it and have dismissed it as everyone always talks about it, hear me out. Give it a try this week. Why? It’s funnier than you might think, exquisitely filmed and has some sublime performances just across the board. There’s just how brave and ahead of its time it was, whilst being truly of it’s time too. This was filmed and released in 1942 – WW2 had been raging for years with no end in sight. Watch this and dare tell me it’s not audacious and revolutionary. And, I hate to carry on referring to current events but – I think we all need some hope this week.

Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001 – 97 mins – Netflix)

This film celebrates its 20th anniversary this year – isn’t that MAD?!?! (Answer, yes. v.mad) After watching this fantastic documentary over the festive period, I was compelled to rewatch the film with fresh and informed eyes. It really does hold up (workplace sexual harassment aspects aside…). As I grow closer to Bridget’s age, having had far too many entanglements and experience that could be described as Bridget Jones moments, I appreciate all the more just how bold her character is – with Renée Zellweger capturing her and the single woman experience so beautifully. And I won’t get started on Colin Firth and Hugh Grant in this film. The former has ruined my romantic expectations for life and the latter would just ruin me.

Gone Girl (2014 – 159 mins – Amazon)

And this week’s underappreciated romcom slot goes to… Ha! There’s really not much I can say about this film because you’ve either seen it already (and seeing it here now you know you want to rewatch it) or you haven’t seen it yet (and therefore I don’t want to spoil things by telling you too much about it as you should now go and watch it). A top-tier thriller by David Fincher, dark and wonderfully twisted.

Hustlers (2019 – 110 mins – Amazon Prime)

I once saw this described as ‘Goodfellas but strippers’ – whilst I appreciate the sentiments, that buzzphrase sort of misses the point. Director and co-writer Lorene Scafaria has made a modern classic here, expertly and seemingly effortlessly utilizing the female gaze. The based-on-a-true-story about a crew of savvy former strip club employees who band together to turn the tables on their Wall Street clients is just magnificent.

Instant Family (2018 – 118 mins – Sky/NowTv and, from sunday, Netflix )

I reckon it’s a safe bet to say that you looked at the below still and formed a judgement about this film based on Mark Wahlberg and, to a much smaller extent because of her varied back catalogue, Rose Byrne. At least, that’s what I did. However, skip this one at your peril as you’ll be missing out. This is one of the finest and funniest family dramas in recent year, following a couple who find themselves in over their heads when they foster three children. Inspired by the personal experience of the film’s director, Sean Anders, this really is a feelgood delight.