Enjoying the Downbeat

When I was growing up, I remember vividly my Dad choosing to absent himself from the living room when a depressing, downbeat or tragic fils, show or documentary came on. "I know these things happen," he would say. "But I don't need it rubbed in my face."

Like the teenage tit that I was, I found this annoying. I was still stuck in the mindset that sad or bleak = "deep". My father was clearly not as deep as me. 

Roll forwards a couple of decades, and I'm beginning to see his point. It's been a rough seven or eight years, with illness, mental health issues and death rocking the family. And now, in my precious leisure time, I've become somewhat adverse to stories tinged with bleakness and despair myself. Real life has plenty of that, thanyouverymuchindeed. Which is why I found myself a little thrown after we watched A Handful of Dust on the AppleTV last night. 

Kristin Scott Thomas in A Handful of Dust.-003a I'm not sure where our copy came from – a free DVD with a newspaper possibly, or inherited from my mother. But a while ago, I ripped it, stuck it on the AppleTV and charity shopped the original, intending to watch and delete the digital copy. And last night, at a loose end after Science Online and a trip to B&Q, we finally got around to watching it. 

I admit: it's been a while since I read any Waugh. And I do feel that this adaptation, as enjoyable as it was, lacked the satirical edge of Waugh's writing. But it was enjoyable, the characters believable and the acting uniformly great. But, my goodness, that ending was bleak. We spent the best part of two hours watching a decision, born of boredom, destroy a family completely. And what was the point in that?

Sleeping on it, I realise that I've slipped into too much of a goal-focused mindset in recent months. The point of the movie, as in so much of life, was the journey, far more than the destination. Did I enjoy the process of watching the film? Yes. Very much? Did I enjoy the ending? No – but that doesn't diminish the enjoyment of watching the film. And, in a sense, the ending wasn't final. It was an endpoint to a certain situation, a certain voyage in the characters' lives, but for most of them, there was life left to live. I'm a long way short of being a person who heads straight to the misery memoir section of the local bookshop, but perhaps I'm crawling my way back towards enjoying some of the more downbeat aspects of art.