First of all, go see Danny Boyle’s movie YESTERDAY. I laughed and cried and had the best time I’ve had at a movie since, gosh, I was thirteen when my friend Dorothy and I got my mother to drive us four hours from Pennsylvania into NY City to see Albert Finney as TOM JONES ( the same weekend the Beetles were in NY City to begin a tour; after the movie, my mother took us for Chinese food at a restaurant where Dorothy and I may or may not have walked past George Harrison, but that’s another story).
I went to YESTERDAY with a friend who’d already been once but wanted to go again. When I came home I called and wrote everyone I could to recommend the movie. Then I sat down to write about it here because, after all, the premise is all about memory.
In the movie, the Beatles and their music (like other random items we all take for granted) has never existed for most of the world’s population. Or put another way, most of the world’s population has forgotten the Beatles ever existed. So the link between memory and personal reality couldn’t be stronger:
In the film, all the people who don’t have the Beatles in their mental database don’t miss them. And yet. And yet, the loss of what they don’t know is palpable to those who do remember (including the audience). So when the songs are reintroduced to the unremembering world, even in a slightly adulterated, second hand form, the joy is glorious. Not unlike when I show Ralph pictures and videos of joyful moments he doesn’t remember otherwise. The difference is that in the movie, people get to keep hearing those songs in their heads once they’re reintroduced. For someone with Alzheimer’s, the memory doesn’t stick, has to be reintroduced every time.
But aside from all my possibly pretentious psycho-philosophizing, the movie is just plain fun. I wouldn’t mind seeing it again. My idea was to take Ralph to see it and then finish writing this post by discussing his reaction. Whether or not he followed the plot, I assumed he’d love the music, of which there is a gracious amount, and I hoped hearing the songs would possibly trigger memories for him of what he was doing when he heard Help or Let It Be.
So I scheduled “See movie Yesterday With Alice” into his daily list for Thursday afternoon at 3pm. By mid morning Thursday, Ralph was complaining of a stomachache.
“It must have been something I ate…I don’t think I can go to a movie today…Can we re-schedule the movie for another day.”
I wasn’t surprised when he was miraculously better and sitting on the porch with his cigarettes and beer by four that afternoon.
“Let’s go Saturday then,” I said.
“What’s the movie about again?”
“The Beatles, and what if no one remembered they existed but one person.”
“Definitely,” he said. “It sounds great.”
Well, here it is Saturday. As he does every morning, Ralph asked me over our first cups of coffee whether anything special was planned today.
“The movie about the Beatles,” I said.
“Oh, do I have to?” he said. “It’s just I don’t like sitting in a chair at the theater for so long.”
I looked at this man, who sits four or five hours at a time in his porch chair and realized I was hanging on to an idea of Ralph as moviegoer that I had to give up. It was not boredom or muscle pain he feared but being trapped in a world he couldn’t follow. He no longer has the capacity for concentration and comprehension that we both used to take as for granted as we did the Beatles.
“No, of course you don’t have to go.” Not today or tomorrow. Movies have become part of Ralph’s yesterday.