Tuesday, March 19, 2013

My Density Has Brought Me To You

The only time in my life that I went to the cinema with my entire family (my father, my mother, my younger brother and me) was to see Back to the Future. I was thirteen-years-old.

When the film finished, I was so exhilarated by the experience and fizzing with excitement that I ran from the cinema to the carpark in ecstatic joy. Anybody who knows me now (or knew me then) would know how staggeringly uncharacteristic of me that is. I don’t really do running. Why run when walking still gets you to the same place, unruffled and sweat-free?

My father died the following year, so it was a once in a lifetime family outing. Jump into the DeLorean of my memories and arrive twenty-five years later. It is 2010, and Back to the Future has been re-released theatrically. My daughter was six-years old. She’d already seen all three Back to the Future films many, many times over at home. But never on a big screen. So we went.

Towards the end of the film, my daughter started awkwardly rocking back and forth. The apple juice she’d been guzzling for the last couple of hours had finally finished making its way through her. I leaned over and whispered:

“Do you need to go to the toilet?”
“Well, come on then, I’ll take you.”
“No! Not yet!”

And so she sat there in a state of obvious discomfort, and rocked. But she wasn't going to let a full bladder stop her from hearing eight words that she really needed to hear. Not wanted. Needed.

“Roads? Where we're going, we don't need roads.”

And with that, she suddenly stood up and said that, Yes, we could go now.

That’s my girl.

Which is a long-winded way of saying that Back to the Future has always loomed large in my family history. From my father to the granddaughter he never got to meet. So, leaving aside how much I love it as a work of cinema, it also holds great nostalgic, personal, almost talismanic sway over me.

Maybe all of that goes some small way towards explaining why I've been so utterly charmed by Sydney Freeland’s short film Hoverboard. Partly because it’s about a little girl so deeply in love with Back to the Future Part II (which also happens to be my daughter’s favourite film in the trilogy). And partly because it is about conjuring up the things we love through invention, imagination and sheer passion. But don’t let me project my emotional attachments on to it too much - watch it yourself. Here you go:

Hoverboard from Nashville Review on Vimeo.

Like Marty and Doc’s adventures in the many ages of Hill Valley, memories aren't linear, so let’s go back in time just once more. In 1989, four years after The One and Only Family Cinema Outing, I went to see Back to the Future Part II. It wasn't the same cinema, but it was half-way up the same road. It was a small screen and there was hardly anybody in there. I went with a school friend, and we sat sprawled out watching the film, munching on popcorn and passing a small bottle of vodka back and forth between us. As much as I enjoyed the film, it was a weekday afternoon that held none of the magic or allure of that evening four years earlier. I was a different person at a different time in my life. A seventeen-year-old idiot swigging neat vodka in a cinema. I preferred the thirteen-year-old Me. The one running to the car after going to the movies with his dad.

To this day, I've still never seen Back to the Future Part III on a large screen. This could fill me with regret but, if these films have ever taught me anything, it is that history (my story) can and does always change.

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