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An Anniversary

This week I have decided to mark an anniversary that means a great deal to me, and practically nothing to anyone else: 25 years ago this week, when I was 15 (I will save you the maths: I am now exactly 30 years old), a film came out in which I held the title role. It was a little, eccentric film - an adaptation, in French, of Henry James's short story 'The Pupil' - and it emerged to somewhat polite reviews, performed middlingly at the French box office for a few weeks, then disappeared from screens entirely. As far as I'm aware it never had an international release of any sort, meaning that its viewership is still mostly confined to a small bubble of people who caught it on screens in 1996 or on one of its spells on television in the two or three years that followed. (There are also, it seems, a small number of paedos or paedo-adjacent people who still watch it and share it online) For a while though - well, throughout the whole of 1996, as we shot the movie in February

How wild swimming helped me come to terms with my past

In November of 2019 I got caught in a current that swept me out to sea, in the icy waters of the channel at Cayeux-sur-Mer in Picardy. To begin with I fought back, even taking a certain pleasure in pitting my body against the sea's relentless churn, but eventually realised I was no match for the great swell that surrounded me, and let my body drift along, looking back towards the beach's pearlescent grey shingle in the distance, and the cheerful row of beach huts beyond the boardwalk. I checked myself for signs of fear: no palpitations, no shiver; my mind was a peaceful void and I felt, as did the poet Giuseppe Ungaretti before me in his poem 'Rivers', at one with water and the world. In that instant, finally, I was able to forget the agonised screams of the customers I had air-rifled to death in my local post office the year before.   Perhaps I should skip back a little. How did I get here? Was I always destined to become an adept of wild swimming?  My chief memory of

Text of my letter resigning my Labour membership

 I wish to leave Labour, in protest at what I see as the lack of direction in the party, the lack of communication, of cut-through to the electorate, and more importantly the apparent lack of any leftwing political convictions with which to oppose Tory misrule. How can we be trailing so badly in the polls afters years of austerity, over 120,000 dead of Covid, Brexit, Grenfell, the Windrush scandal, stealth privatisation of the NHS, increased child poverty - and what now seems to be the next Tory scandal, the cronyism & corruption of government. Why is Labour out of step with public opinion on corporate tax? Why are we concentrating wholesale on a wretched campaign to renew patriotism, when this will increase already rampant nationalism? I also believe that the party's authoritarian streak, its big talk on cannabis and policing, errs towards dogwhistle racism which is wrong and which will do us no favours.  Finally, our leader, Keir Starmer, appears to lack the moral compass we

Thoughts on It's A Sin

Perhaps the biggest gotcha in cinema - or the most famous - comes in Pretty Woman, after Vivian (Julia Roberts) has been refused service in a high-end shop. Returning to the shop the next day, she decides on a whim to confront the snooty saleswomen who had spurned her, showing them the money that they missed out on. “Big mistake. Huge!,” she crows before waltzing off again, leaving the two women gobsmacked. Pow pow! It’s a little like a scene in a western, where the cowboy disarms an enemy and then saunters off into the sunset.  Russell T. Davies’ new TV show, about five friends in London at the height of the AIDS crisis, features what feels like dozens of these scenes - big heartswelling moments of characters smartly putting people in their place, before walking off, leaving their antagonist open-mouthed and speechless. One such moment comes when the gang employ a lawyer, Lizbeth Farooqi (Seyan Sarvan), to get their friend Colin out of medical imprisonment. At this point, the programm

This is 40

I turn 40 soon. It's an age that I can easily recall my parents being; in fact, my mother would have been not much older than 40 around the time her father died, which I remember all too well, as I was 11 or 12. It felt like she was about the right sort of age to have a parent die. My parents, then, felt like fully settled figures, with a car, reliable jobs, a mortgage, three kids - these markers of grown-upness and stability that I have barely begun to match. I only found out what a clutch pedal is two months ago. My parents' friends were the same age as them, or older, and they smoked, and didn't interact with children much, except in a fairly distanced way; these friends also had mortgages and cars etc etc. There was something unplayful about many of these people - who were usually fun and intelligent and witty in their adult way - that marked them out as being, by this stage of their life, fully formed. Of course, I know that part of this is my childlike projection onto

On Cuties, child sexuality and a resurgent homophobia; or, The New Reactionaries

I'm not a morning person - so, when my children wake me up at 6:53 of a weekend, I have contrived a ritual of tea and biscuits and books in bed, which buys me some slumber time and crucially delays running-after-them-while-pretending-to-be-a-hungry-monster time until, ooh, 8:15? The boys are at their most cherubic at this hour, and often when I return to the bedroom from the kitchen with my tray of biscuits and incredibly strong tea, I catch them having a cuddle and a natter together (what can they be talking about? They don't know anything yet!) under a great heap of covers, propped up against a bank of pillows.  On Sunday of last week I left them together under the duvets, blearily checked my phone, put a teabag in my cup, and reported some tweets I had received overnight, calling me a paedophile. I returned to the bedroom, dug out a book to read with my sons, bid them budge up in bed, and deleted another message I had received, which was simply a picture of a woodchipper. 

An article pitch that went nowhere due to my lack of journalistic nous at the time (2016)

 It may be a sign of the times: at the moment you can see three films in British cinemas that centre on a threat to a home or community. Alice Winocour’s film Disorder is a more straightforward  variation on the storied Home Invasion genre - but The Club, Pablo Larrain’s evisceration of the Catholic church, and Robert Eggers' horror film The Witch, also play on this theme in different ways.The differences between the films - in the way they utilise this format, the way they reflect our fears and insecurities - are telling about contemporary political concerns.  Disorder focuses on Vincent, an ex-soldier with PTSD, played by Matthias Schoenaerts, who takes a security job looking after the wife and son of a shady businessman in their luxury villa. For reasons which aren't entirely clear - and which, to its detriment, the film doesn't investigate - the house will become the scene of a vicious siege, aiming to harm the businessman's wife and child. As the film progresses, V