The Movies my Mother watches

Wednesday 15th July

Whenever my mother suggests watching a movie on a rainy evening I am filled with a mixture of a silly smugness that I have the kind of relationship with my mother where we still curl up and watch movies together or quiet consternation at what she’s going to choose. The movies my mother wants to watch are more and more frequently about women just like her, you know the type. The working mother with grown up children who suddenly decides to change her career or travel around the world or sell her house and tick off things on her bucket list. My mother wants movies of the Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson variety, the Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones in Hope Springs kind of rom coms as opposed to Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling (Swa-ooon), let alone Emma Stone and Spidey Boy (More swa-ooon). We both like Dramas but (I suspect) need to feel mentally prepared for the emotional upheaval and catharsis we know will come and so we make do with rom coms and breathe a sigh of relief.

AS GOOD AS IT GETS, Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt, 1997, (c) Sony Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection

AS GOOD AS IT GETS, Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt, 1997, (c) Sony Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection

I always say that if you want to find out about a person, you ask them what their favourite book is. Not only do you learn about what they like but if halfway through they stop and think about whether it’s what you like and if they would actually recommend the book to you or choose something more suitable to your interests and tastes…well let’s just say it says a lot about a person. My mum doesn’t do the stop and think. She is at a stage where she assumes the books and movies she likes will be ones that I will like by default as I am after all her daughter (and in her eyes an extension of her own limbs). Needless to say, I tolerate the Diane Keaton movies, in fact I enjoy some of them like The Wedding, which had yours truly – Diane Keaton – and Robert De Niro (something for mum) and Amanda Seyfried and Katherine Heigl (something for moi). But I find that we are increasingly watching more movies together about people closer to my mother’s age than mine.

I’m finding that this observation can also be extended to the books we read. Where once our reading tastes were vastly different – I was obsessed with Agatha Christie and murder mystery stories at 10 years old and I had no idea what my mum read and little did I care, now our tastes are more similar. When I lived in Melbourne at one stage we were both reading On the Road by Jack Kerouac at the same time by sheer coincidence, and moving back home with Uni and part time work and not much time to go to the library and choose books for myself, I found myself increasingly snagging books my mum had got out of the library for herself – some bestseller by Nora Ephron, and more recently ‘How to walk backwards in High Heels’, a humorously chatty fat book about dispelling myths about femininity which I have to grudgingly admit, has given me lots of fodder to mull over.

So I come to this realisation – shock horror – am I finally turning into my mother? And if I am, is it such a surprising thing? I thought this was supposed to happen in my thirties or forties, not mid-twenties. Yet I find myself increasingly boxing and labelling things, like my mother does. I choose clothes that are statement pieces like my mother tells me to do (but rarely does herself) and I cook food that is easy rather than what is intricate. Where once I believed that I would love to spend hours labouring over a meal and what you ate should be colourful and decorative, after a year of cooking for one and crawling into bed at midnight on a working night, I am all for shovelling food into my mouth to get through from one day to the next. Mind you, I still harbour romantic ideas of preparing colourful lunchbox meals for my kids with sliced carrots and hummus with a couscous salad but who am I kidding, 10 years from now I’m sure I will be packing tuna sandwiches.

The older I get the more I realise that what seemed like hours and hours of time to sit on my haunches and examine snails making their slimy way across a wall is time that runs out far too quickly as an adult. If I entertained thoughts of how organised and domesticated I would be as an ‘adult’, I say now look for an adultier adult because at 24 my time is far too precious to be wasted on food that is going to disappear into my mouth anyway. The older I get the more I appreciate everything my mother does, from trying to make us eat a variety of dried fruit and nuts (Anushka just eat one Brazil nut a day your body needs a minimum amount of Selenium to function!) to the subtle notes she makes on how we react to things and her not so subtle knack of questioning.


So at 24, I find myself watching more Diane Keaton than Emma Stone and while I still complain about it to stick to tradition, I enjoy these movies about older women more than I used to. And it occurred to me that it’s probably because they are so much like my mother. The movies my mother watches, are as much about her as they are about me, they’re about the mother daughter dynamic, the relationship between people, and the stuff that life is made of. Yes they’re not going to have Ryan Gosling doing the lift from Dirty Dancing (though we do both love Dirty Dancing) and no I’m probably never going to see Kristen Stewart feature in them but after spending a year away from home, I’m finding that I am much more like my mum than I realised. Different, but kinda the same.