Patriotism is a very funny concept to the British in the 21st century.
Patriotism is a very funny concept to the British in the 21st century. Where it comes so naturally (scarily so in some cases) to other nations, and as it did to us not so long ago, it is now treated with a degree of scorn in modern times. It is, however, a subjective art in my opinion.
Maybe it is because we have seen it done so badly in recent times that we now naturally recoil from it, or make fun of it in the same way that South Park loves to satirise the American’s jingoistic nature (“Well if you don’t like America, then you can just giiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit out!”).
Certain ways of displaying pride
There are, however, certain ways of displaying a certain pride in your country, and the characteristics which we exhibit, to the outside world which we are either content with or we simply don’t care how they are perceived. Usually these displays revolve around the births, deaths and marriages of the Royal Family, however there is another tradition which springs from a different institution, for which we all tend to stop what we are doing, gather in small groups and rejoice in the simple wonders of British nature.
I’m not talking about David Attenborough’s Blue Planet, and I’m not talking about Bill Oddy’s Spring Watch (although both do fit the bill to a certain degree). I am, in fact, talking about the films of a certain Richard Whalley Anthony Curtis, CBE.
Irresistible qualities to Curtis’ films
Unfortunately for us, Richard Curtis has stated that his most recent work About Time will in fact be the last which he directs, and I would like to take a moment to explain why all of us will be a little poorer for this.
Whilst his films are unashamedly frothy to a fault and very easy to sneer at, I also believe that there are always irresistible qualities to them which perpetuate and reinforce our own national persona. There are charming and, almost always, slightly bumbling male characters who stutter their way through the narratives, getting into embarrassing situations, but always do so whilst in the honourable pursuit of love.
Integral part of culture
It is that understanding of what makes us tick that makes Richard Curtis’ films an integral part of our culture. He writes about what is close to him and rejoices in the humanism and flawed personas which make up the British people, and he never loses sight of his own good-hearted and loving nature. He holds a mirror up to us all through his films, all so that we can collectively experience something extremely personal.
He may state the obvious, and he may show too much heart and too much generosity (if such a thing is possible), which is why we find it so easy to dismiss his romantic nature—that’s just what we do! But I also feel that without his idealism we are all at risk of forgetting what makes us so proud to be British—we are a society of contradictions.
Looking forward to seeing this last work
We can be charming and cuttingly snide in the same sentence. We can visit our grandmothers with flowers and sit for hours nursing her memories with cups of tea, before heading off to the football to scream obscenities, drink raucously and generally act like a slightly more-evolved baboon in human clothing.
We can do and say so many contradicting and hypocritical things, however if we were not to have our good-hearted and loving nature to counteract the more brutal and boorish aspects of our national psyche, we would not be who we are. We may not be perfect, but I don’t think there is anyone else we would rather be either.
So as the 4th September draws closer, I find myself looking forward to seeing this last work of Mr Curtis. About Time seems to follow in a rich tradition of Curtisian movies, and the trailer fills me with the joyous expectation that accompanies all of his work and tells us a lot about how he sees the world.
It may not be easy, nor may it be without pain. It may contain disappointment and disillusionment and may speak of sorrow, but you will laugh, and you will find love and joy and exult in the simple things which make us who we are and what we love to the people who love us most. But above all, everything will be ok!