Watching old videos my kids took of me sighing a lot was an eye opener — so my New Year’s resolution is to frown less
At this point in the season, you are probably feeling like you need something to cut through the festive treacle.
think we are all a bit jaded from the joy and goodwill to all and have developed a kind of intellectual diabetes from the cheery tales of happy families that clog up our screens throughout December.
What you need is a good palate cleanser — something a little bittersweet, something sharp, a little less saccharine. Might I recommend the least Christmassy film — and also the best film — that I saw this year, Aftersun, for your viewing pleasure?
It’s an extraordinarily touching film about a little girl on holidays with her father, framed through old video footage of the holiday that the grown-up version of the girl — now a parent herself — is watching decades later.
With its hot mix of sand, seas, sun and Paul Mescal being sad in a Scottish accent, it’s fabulously unfestive. The only Christmassy thing about it is the fact that it was filmed in Turkey.
Of course, everything is subjective and part of the reason I liked the film so much was that there were parts I could relate to.
Not long before I saw Aftersun, I decided to tidy up the hard drive on the family computer.
Our trusty Mac is, like me, pushing on a bit now and is also carrying a lot of extra digital weight — approximately two of the three terabytes of the hard drive were taken up with family photos and videos.
I decided I’d start by deleting as many of the videos as I could, but much like when you lay down newspapers before painting a room and end up reading them all rather than doing any painting, I found myself watching each and every video.
Most of them were shot by the kids and had that unique view on the world — sometimes there would be a pudgy finger over the lens or the lens would be so greasy from said chubby finger that everything was in soft focus.
In squeaky little voices, they all bickered with each other from behind and in front of the camera, like a Fisher Price version of an Errol Morris documentary. The videos were all incredibly sweet, but my cameos in them left something of a bitter aftertaste.
My first thought when I appeared was, gosh, I have put on a lot of weight in the last 18 months.
The second thought, as I went through the videos one by one, was, gosh, I do not look like I am enjoying being a parent. I have a pained expression in so many of the videos and when I speak, it’s all exasperation, weary sighs and rolling eyes.
In one video shot in 2015, my eldest son, who was eight at the time, is running around trying to get my attention, repeating “Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad”. I’m standing at the computer and, without even turning my head, barely grunt as he tells me some amazing factoid.
He keeps talking and I, clearly not listening, remain silent, staring at the screen.
As we went through the folder, there were more and more videos like that, all shot from their low angle, and me, the big unfriendly giant, there but not there, distracted or distant.
I checked all the dates the clips were from for some explanation, and there were things happening in my life that caused me stress or sorrow, or grief, but none of that gives any consolation or context to a child.
All they know is you sigh a lot or sometimes don’t answer them, or are lost in thought.
In the end, I didn’t delete any videos. It would feel like I was erasing evidence, so I just left them there and binned thousands of overexposed photos of sunsets and blurry night skies instead.
But it gave me a new year’s resolution — to try and relax a little, to be present, to spend less time adrift. To enjoy the ride, frown a little less, and maybe try to lose some weight.
Either that or just stop the kids from using my camera.
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