Rain stops play. But it doesn’t stop films. My son loves films he knows - and don’t we all? The films we know and love are familiar, old friends, comforting. We know what will happen, but are still excited by it. Films unseen are unfamiliar, unknown, who can say what will happen? (Other than the inevitable appearance of the quote below.)
So, after nixing another showing of Spider-Man, Hulk, Indy, Star Wars, Harry Potter, I was adamant that we watch something the children hadn’t seen. A feature film, not just a short. I suggested National Treasure: it’s action-filled, fun, Indy-lite. My son is a history nut and an Indy fan, so it seemed obvious that this would be a good choice.
I decided to take on the logical approach. “Once upon a time you only watched one film. Let’s say, My Neighbour Totoro (an early favourite). Then I suggested you watch Star Wars, and you said no. Then you watched it, and loved it. And then you only wanted to watch My Neighbour Totoro or Star Wars. I would suggest Indy, and you’d say no, only to discover you love it. Then you’d only watch Totoro, Star Wars, or Indy.”
I may have used a few more examples to ram the point home: films unseen are an adventure waiting to happen. The thrill of the unknown is the appeal.
Over-riding his grumpiness, I put on National Treasure. It’s not a brilliant film, I know. But then, neither is Power Rangers the Movie, and he seems to like that… After about ten minutes sulking, he started engaging with and laughing at the film. My daughter turned to me and said, “he’s enjoying it and he said he didn’t want to watch it”. “Shhhhh”, I replied. “Before he realises…”
By the end, he was loving it. As I knew he would do. It’s hard not to be smug, but I introduced him not only to something new that he realises he likes, but hopefully opened him to the idea that new does not always equal bad.
Putting this theory to the test, the next day I put on A Little Princess. His face turned sour at the thought of such a girly film. He ended up enjoying it more than my daughter. (It’s a charming little film, directed by Azkaban and Children of Men director Alfonso Cuaron. I hadn’t seen it before, but it’s a lovely tale of imagination and triumph of the will.)
Opening up children to new things, the unknown, is a big step. If they can approach films, or indeed anything in life, with an open mind, there is a whole world of possibility out there. Just because something is unknown doesn’t mean that it’s not going to be good or fun. And once it becomes known, it moves into that familiar, comforting territory that will one day become known as “childhood”. And if I can fill that childhood with these warm, charming, unforgettable films and experiences, then everybody wins.