I try to see movies on the weekend they’re released. If I don’t see them when they’re at the front of my mind, real life tends to get in the way and by the time I’m able to get back around to seeing them, they’ve already left the theaters. As such, when I woke up Sunday with nothing to do, I decided this was my window to see A Wrinkle in Time.
I read the book when I was young but to be frank, it’s one I don’t remember anything about. Some of my friends said they needed a refresher on the plot before seeing the movie but I intentionally stayed away from recaps of the book or reviews that might compare the narrative of the book to the narrative of the film. I wanted to experience it with a clean slate. The trailer wowed me like it wowed so many and honestly, I imagined I’d enjoy it no matter what.
As I approached the seat I’d selected at the kiosk downstairs, I noticed I’d be sitting next to two young men, both stocky and giggling to one another. One of them was casually lounging on my seat’s armrest and looked annoyed when I sat down and he had to move his arm. I get it—it’s nice to have space to sprawl and ample armrest availability. I didn’t have much of a choice in where I sat since there was only one seat left in the theater. I prefer seats on the aisle because I have long legs and I can at least guarantee I’ll have no one sitting on one side of me, but the last seat available was in the center of the row. This was made more tolerable by the fact I’d lucked into a theater with plush leather reclining seats and tray tables on which to set my popcorn and diet cream soda. I don’t require this sort of pampering at the movies, but I also won’t turn it down.
The young men to my left chatted loudly during the commercials, their back-and-forth occurring mostly in high-pitched cackles as they talked over ads for Coca Cola. When the previews began—my favorite part of theater-going besides the actual movies—they called out the names of the movies as soon as they figured out what they were. Giddy over the prospect of seeing these films in the future, they applauded riotously when the titles shown on the screen at the end of each preview. One exclaimed, “We are totally going to see that!” after both the previews for Mary Poppins Returns and Christopher Robin. His words slurred like a young child as he shouted and clapped, but he wasn’t a child. Nor was his friend next to him. They were both young men old enough to have hairs on their chests and chins, and they were both noticeably on the spectrum. I say “on the spectrum” because I wouldn’t be so forward as to blindly assign them a specific disability or differently-abled title, but it was clear that while their bodies were as aged as mine, their minds were not.
The previews ended and the movie began but their talking never stopped. Rather than sharing a giddy repartee with each other as they’d done during the previews, they now began repeating the lines of the film’s characters. After almost every sentence, one of the young men would immediately repeat it aloud in his childlike, high-pitched voice. Then, as Oprah, Reese and Mindy’s characters entered the film, both of the men clapped and beat on their tray tables with their hands.
I’d love to sound so enlightened as to say it didn’t bother me—that their unbridled enthusiasm marshaled a warm thankfulness inside me about the inclusive nature of going to the movies—but that’s not true. I was annoyed. If I wanted to talk through the movie, I’d have waited for it to be on Blu-ray or HBO. Instead, I paid the 400 dollars (it feels that way at least with what theaters charge in Manhattan) to disappear into that Wrinkle with everyone else. Now these young men were literally banging on their tables while repeating each line of the movie just an armrest away from me?
People around me began to get annoyed as well. They looked over at them and cleared their throats as if it were a humane way to tell them to shut up. At one point, something less-than-positive happened to the film’s young protagonist and the young men shouted, “I’m so sorry Meg!” at the screen. People laughed at them. The woman seated to my right began saying hushed things under her breath like, “Are you kidding me?” and “ohmygod please stop.” Each time they clapped, her head spun around like a double from The Exorcist and she stared daggers at the young men who had no idea they’d been the slightest bit disruptive. They were simply enjoying the movie.
I focused on the screen as a way to try and mute the talking to my left and the heavy sighing from the annoyed woman on my right. It’s a big fantasy movie with loud sweeping moments so most of the time, I was the only person who could hear their chatting and dialogue repetition, but over time, the noise lurched past being annoying to became quite grating.
Why can’t they just be quiet? Maybe I should say something. Is that insensitive though? They paid to be here too. But then again, so did I. I love the Lord but this is really testing my patience. Maybe this is the wrong venue for these fellas to see this movie…
It was about the time when that last thought zipped through my head that Oprah’s character asked the question, “Is there such thing as the wrong size?” She may not have been specifically addressing the noisy disruptiveness of two young men, but in that moment, in that theater in Manhattan, that’s exactly what she was addressing in me. These two fellas were fully immersed in this big screen adventure about a girl who’d been judged for one aspect of herself and as it turns out, they were, in a way, watching themselves on the screen.
In the film, Meg is judged and bullied because her father is missing. It’s just one aspect of her story but it causes her classmates to put her down. I realized it’s not all that different from these two young men who, more than likely, are routinely judged on basis of one aspect of themselves. Come to think of it, it’s not all that different from the times when I’ve felt I’ve been unfairly judged based on one aspect of my being. I don’t look like Meg—I’m a white guy in Manhattan in his mid-thirties—but this afternoon, I realized I was Meg and Meg was me. The truth is, we’re all Meg. We’ve all been judged and put down because of one aspect of ourselves. We’re women, or gay, or a minority, or have a disability, or don’t speak English, or are poor, or have weird eyebrows, or speak with a thick accent, or got pregnant young, or simply don’t fit the mold of the environment in which we currently find ourselves. We’re all Meg.
I go to the movies to escape into someone else’s story for a bit. Sometimes that’s superheroes and Storm Troopers, sometimes it’s teenagers coming of age or adults coming into a new phase of their life. But I love the disappearing act of entering a dark theater and reappearing afterward with something I didn’t have when I went in—be it hope, empathy, inspiration, revived energy, a shifted perspective, or a more malleable heart. That’s why I went to see A Wrinkle in Time today, because I wanted to shift my empty day and start my work week off in a way that felt wondrous and full. But today, the real reason I was there was to learn.
From that moment on, I felt almost protective of my chatty row mates. I began to become annoyed, not with them, but with the people around us who continued to passive aggressively try to shut them up. I was primed and ready to put anyone in their place who might break their trance with this beautiful movie. Thankfully, it never came to that.
The film itself did fill me up and the floating flowers scene was one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen on film in a long time. But my favorite scene was near the end, when lights and sparkles whirled around Meg like shooting stars. In almost perfect unison, myself and the two young men to my left said, “Wow!” Mine was quiet and under my breath, theirs was loud and directed to the screen, but we shared the same moment. Perhaps it didn’t resonate as profoundly to them as it did to me, but we were connected for that moment. I’m thankful to Ava and Oprah and all the people who made the film for crafting such an impactful story. I’m also thankful to the two young men who wouldn’t shut up and who showed me that we’re all Meg. No matter our differences, there’s a light inside of us that we must shine for others. We can all be warriors like Meg if we choose to be.
Ryan’s book of essays, I Really Like My Hands Today, is available now on Amazon.