The first day of spring was this past weekend, and what a day it was. On the east coast, Sunday teased close to 70 degrees, and the restaurants teemed with individuals, couples, and families brunching inside and out in open-air sidewalk cafes. With so many people packing the sidewalks of lower Manhattan, I realized I had forgotten that this used to be a “thing” in pre-pandemic NYC. The crowds. The energy. The excitement as spring arrives and we all exhale and enjoy the sun and promise of extended warmth.
As part of this wonderful weekend, I went to the Angelika Film Center to watch The Father, starring Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Coleman. The movie was heartachingly brilliant, placing the viewer inside the mind of a man ravaged with dementia and showing just how it must feel to constantly question what you’ve known your whole life, basically questioning your reality. SEE IT AND MARVEL.
My visiting the Angelika that day, was the first time I’d sat in a movie theater since February 2020, when I saw the sensuous The Photograph starring the very talented Issa Rae and LaKeith “The Chameleon” Stanfield. It has been a very long year since then, and my Saturday Angelika experience was…surprisingly strange.
First, it took more than ten minutes of standing in a line of two people—me being one of them—to get my tickets, because there was a Hella’ delay with the other half of the line ahead of me, as he and the cashier negotiated the confusion of his online ticket purchase. I’m embarrassed to say that I was a bit impatient and annoyed with this transaction. And, as a filmmaker, I’m really ashamed to say that as I waited with growing annoyance, this thought crept into my mind: “I could’ve waited for “The Father” to stream in a couple of weeks on Netflix, or Amazon, or Hulu, and watched it in the comfort of my home, not having to deal with all of ‘this’.”
The pandemic has truly changed me.
But finally, I got my tickets—plural because my buddy Cathy had joined me—and we take our seats. Along with Cath and I, there was the gentleman who bottlenecked the ticket line, his wife, and three others in the audience. That’s it. In a theater with at least 75 seats, the seven of us were instructed, before we entered the theater, to keep our masks on, which Cath and I did between sips of our cappuccinos. And yet again, I felt impatience over this mask mandate in the mostly empty room, and a guilty irritation over what felt like an eternity of upcoming movie trailers.
Then, “The Father” started. And progressed. And toward the end of its glorious storytelling, I had one of those experiences I have only had when gazing up at a gigantic screen in a darkened movie theater: I cried. Suddenly, all of my pandemic-induced solitude, fear, and annoyance was gone. At that moment, I was reminded of why I fell in love with cinema as a kid watching “Apocalypse Now” on a giant screen, realizing that something was happening to me beyond entertainment. I was being taught. Challenged. Distressed.
This is what happened with “The Father” this past Saturday, a day before the first day of spring 2021. And although we are almost past 2020, a year of great challenges and distress, we are not quite there yet; we must still wear our masks.
However, we must also push ourselves past the inclination to avert our eyes from each other, and trust that when we lock those eyes on a passing soul the thought is, “I see you, you see me, and we are in this together.” Watching “The Father” in a movie theater, even one barely attended, reminded me that great movies make us feel this togetherness. This is what happened with us seven souls at the Angelika. And hopefully, this is what is happening to the collective us in this pandemic that we are slowly, oh so slowly, crawling out of. Maybe this horrific challenge has taught us that once we get past our fear, irritation, and impatience there will be something beautiful.
Sing! Joy! Spring!