Now that we are back in lock-down with no free-time activities to escape from each other, I have reinstated family film night as a way of bonding with my loved ones. So, this evening we’re in the middle of our usual discussion about what to watch. I’m all for a rom-com but the boys are having none of that and are fixated on the latest action movie. This is given a firm, female veto.
‘Oh, look – Pulp Fiction – that’s a classic,’ says Grunting Teen hopefully until the Nearly-Beloved reminds him, ‘It’s rated 18. Your mother’s not allowed to watch those.’
I shudder at the memory of a bloody zombie apocalypse and instead suggest an interesting indie film. The teenager is not impressed.
‘It’s in French. And it’s got subtitles. I’d have to read everything. No way! There’s nothing on here that’s worth watching. Can’t we look on Prime instead?’
‘And pay for the privilege?’ gasps his father, ‘As if I don’t spend enough on my monthly subscription…’
‘Oh, this is taking ages, dad. You’re so useless at scrolling through! Pass me the controller,’ demands the teen, wrenching it out of his father’s hands.
Within seconds the Nearly-Beloved starts objecting.
‘Slow down! You’re not giving me time to read anything.’
‘But it looks boring dad. How about this one? Contagion? Mm, maybe not…’
I sigh and repeat my usual film-night mantra. ‘If you don’t choose something soon, it’ll be time for bed. I’m going to put the kettle on and when I come back, you’d better have found something.’
On my return, a compromise has been reached. I raise my eyebrows at my son.
‘A thriller? Complex plot?’
‘Muum! I’m not stupid. And anyway, it’s the only one dad agreed to,’ he replies, pressing play.
‘Hang on – how do you know the password, when we’ve set parental controls?’ I ask.
He rolls his eyes. ‘Duuhh!!’
‘Okay. Enough messing about. Let’s just get on with the film,’ begs the Nearly Beloved.
‘Snacks first,’ says Grunting Teen disappearing into the kitchen.
But it’s worth the wait. Popcorn, prosecco and a lead actor who’s easy on the eye.
The story’s well-scripted too, with enough red herrings to keep our GCSE genius on his toes. ‘How come they’ve arrested the doddery pensioner,’ he asks, ‘when it’s obviously the ex-wife who committed the murder?’
‘No, that’s to put you off the scent,’ I explain, ‘he’s been set up by that corrupt American politician and his sidekick with the dodgy, Old Etonian hairstyle.’
We turn to look at the head of the household.
‘Can’t I ever watch a film without you lot talking over it? It’s no wonder you can’t follow the plot. If you listened, you’d know it’s the step-son with the artificial leg.’
The one with the Dominic Cummings fashion sense? Surely not? I sense no evidence for his claim. But as he’s paused the film, I take the chance to nip to the loo.
The Nearly Beloved grumbles, ‘Seriously? Can’t you even sit through a two-hour film without a break?’
And the teenager seizes his opportunity. ‘Mum, bring in some crisps on the way back.’
Returning with more refreshments and ignoring the mutters of, ‘It’s a film, not a 3-course meal,’ I sit through a nervous hour as the doddery pensioner comes to a sad and sticky end.
‘Oh, look out!’ I shout to the ex-wife, ‘Fake-tan-power-grabber is going to pounce with that knife any minute!’
‘Mum, honestly – you’ll wake dad up,’ says the teen, pointing at his father who’s snoring contentedly in the corner.
The suspense is killing me. I’m on the edge of my seat. Surely it can’t be the ex-wife? Although she does have a hint of steely Nicola Sturgeon to her… There’s only ten minutes left to the closing credits when our eye-candy detective reveals the true culprit, proving he’s more than a pretty face
No way! The step-son. He used his artificial leg to hide the murder weapon.
‘Mmeeurgh – what?’ The Nearly Beloved wakes up as if on cue.
‘I was just saying, sweetheart, that despite missing half the film, you still worked out whodunnit. Well done.’
My husband avoids eye-contact and all becomes suddenly clear. He’s had insider knowledge. This hasn’t been a fair contest.
‘You’ve seen that film already, haven’t you?’
He looks shifty. ‘Might have done.’
I smile. Maybe the outcome was clear to him but a surprise to others. Just as well then that, even in these most unpredictable of times, I can still exert some control over my life.
‘Well at least we won’t waste hours choosing next week’s film,’ I tell him. ‘The rom-com it is then.’