Go ahead and walk out of that movie if it's not for you

I walked out of Doctor Sleep about an hour into the movie. As a critic, I believe it's important to try to test your limitations in reasonable ways. I dislike being frightened, but horror is a successful and socially significant genre, so I recognise that it's important for me to at least attempt to sit through some of those movies.

But if you test your limits, sometimes you'll fail. And recognising the difference between a bad movie and one that simply isn't to your taste or that is beyond your capacity can be a clarifying experience. It's worth it to try a movie that might push you, and it's perfectly all right to walk out if it pushes you too far.

Ewan McGregor in Doctor Sleep.

Early in Doctor Sleep, an adaptation of Stephen King's sequel to The Shining, Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor), an unhappy adult who has dulled his visions with drugs and alcohol and inherited his father's penchant for violence, wakes up in bed with a naked woman after a bender. She's unconscious, perhaps overdosed, and has vomited on the sheets. Danny discovers that there is a tear-stained, neglected toddler in the apartment with them as well.

Rather than getting help for this miserable little family, or even changing the child's nappy, Danny sets the child on the filthy bed with a bag of Cheez-Its as poor consolation before rifling through the mother's wallet and fleeing.

It is often worth watching difficult and ugly material because such art gives us a way to face up to human experiences that we're unlikely to encounter in person. But I didn't walk out of Doctor Sleep because I didn't want to confront the fact that children are sometimes miserable, and that they are sometimes treated with profound indifference or even cruelly abused.

As a relatively new mother, I'm familiar with what it's like when a child is afraid or in pain, and what it feels like to be unable to provide a small, vulnerable person with immediate relief. I'm so steeped in the needs and feelings of a very young child that I'm simply not capable right now of treating violence and neglect toward children with the level of detachment that would enable me to consume those images as entertainment, or even as an attempt at edification. So I walked.

I believe movies are supposed to be transporting. Sometimes the journey will be worth it. Sometimes it won't. But remembering that you're free to leave a movie will save you time and resentment, just as leaving yourself open to being surprised can be a source of unexpected joy.

Washington Post


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