to me the child in time is like music. unlike anything else BC has done to date, and thank god for that :-) you kinda need repeated viewings to let it wash over you. (note: there are spoilers in this post. sorry, impossible to avoid). and also, as is my MO. this is a long post. sorry about that too…
first of all, let’s be clear on a few things. BC swearing with that half-apologetic english tone is just super endearing. every time he swore in this it just made me laugh out loud. and SunnyMarch know their market. BC was in almost every frame, often in ambient or evening light, often in close-up and in profile, and was f*cking beautiful throughout.
when I read the book, i thought – even more than Patrick Melrose – that stephen is so reflective they will never be able to express his journey without clumsy dialogue. but I criminally underestimated what BC can do. no one tells an inner story the way he does, with so little.
and it was so important that julie and stephen were believable. not just having chemistry. but also able to be in love, torn apart, taking different paths to evolve, and needing and both hurting each other. and they were. kelly macdonald was magnificent; she was calm and contained whilst stephen tried to fix it all. and i could have watched an entire movie of just them together.
the main challenge of this piece - as indeed with any ian mcewan adaptation - is trying to visually tell his highly symbolic and thematic novels. some have worked in the past; atonement for example, because so many explosive events happen in it. others, like enduring love, didn’t for me. because the symbolism and opaque internal dialogues got lost.
TCIT is so symbolic. the concept of the child within, childhood and the fluidity of time is told on different levels; stephen and julie lose their child, whilst their best friend regresses to childhood whilst his physicist wife studies time, stephen sits on a government childcare committee, all the while the characters have visions of their past and future iterations of childhood, playing with the idea of time that is both predestined and also fluid,
i found this overly ambitious in the book, and i found parts of this complicated story the same in the film. i think the committee was almost unnecessary in the film; and i think lost people. as did the amount of time spent on charles’ regression. stephen campbell moore played charles’ state of being too chaotically for me; his regression was shocking and so abrupt. and i think it distracted a little from the main, and most important story in the 90 mins.
but it did create one of the best scenes in the film where BC plays anger and betrayal so brilliantly. his anger at charles; leaving his role as politician and as stephen’s publisher, and who had allowed stephen to be a child. And BC’s face in the restaurant, and even more so in the den in the forest, his anger and petulance and confusion was so so brilliantly done.
stephen tries to be the little boy himself; “fish had so many memories that he wanted to forget. even the good ones” but he can’t… “that’s f*cking perverse” (and god I love how BC does that with an almost comic deadpanned exasperation) . said the almost middle aged man. who wouldn’t climb a tree because of unsuitable footwear”. (tears. again. stop it).
and like the Inuit have 5o different words for snow, TCIT gives us the same variants on BC’s crying. my god his emotional stretch in this was immense. there were moments where it was impossible to watch; and the raw, uncomplicated grief in the school and in the forest… i haven’t seen BC do that before. i felt like i was intruding.
there were some beautiful touches throughout; lines like “missing her is different from loving her”, “you always let me down, you never bring her home” and when stephen closes charles’ eulogy with “the end” like the close of a children’s book, spoke volumes with the greatest efficiency.
was it confusing? Maybe. Maybe I lost perspective because i had read the book several times so i knew the narrative. But what didn’t help was the way the BBC promoted it as some kind of BC-centric “find a child” Broadchurch kind of movie whereas of course it’s more a expressionist musing than forensic thriller. so I get all the online complaining about it. (it get 4.5M viewers and 23% of the audience tho!)
but it’s under my skin. the “keep breathing” at the end ties it all together so powerfully. it was the message of the film for me. don’t try – as Stephen did for so long – to hold your breath underwater, try to be a fish with no memory, and to stop feeling. but don’t let pain and feeling overwhelm you. and consume you.
i loved it. and i loved BC in this. pretty much now, my 2nd fave BC performance.
We are strong. There may not be as much as there was but we are still a strong army. Others can bring us down, beat us into the dirt, call us names and defile our existence as a fandom but one thing they will never break is our spirit. We are the losing team that still plays the trumpets loud and hard, no matter what the score on the board is.
Don’t try to degrade us, don’t try to take away our luster, don’t try to take away our legitimacy or our soul. We will rise back up. We are warriors that have held on strong through waves of hatred, spite and anger. It doesn’t matter what you say anymore, you’re never gonna bring me down. You’re never gonna bring US down.
So come at us, go ahead. When you do, you better come with all your ammo because we won’t go down without a fight.
go on and burn down whatever traces of me you can find. tear my flowers from their ancient roots, but don’t be angry when spring finds me and dead seeds bloom once again. reach for the stars with your ink-stained fingers, try to snatch them off the sky. but don’t be frustrated if the stars won’t budge, if they refuse to stop shining for me. try to darken the sun, to shield it from me with your calloused hands, but don’t blame me if its heat sets you aflame. you can try and take my happiness from me, try with everything you have, but i will never let you succeed. you must hate knowing that you were never strong enough to bring me down.