Having booked tickets for a film I have wanted to see for a while I search for reviews and try to work out why I don’t do it the other way around.
The first piece I come across gives the film one star.
Emerging from the cinema later I have found it funny, touching and poignant. It was everything I hoped it would be. It makes me wonder about the point of critics and of listening to other people’s opinions.
If you type “why do critics” into Google almost every next word suggested is “hate”.
I still sometimes rely on critics of course. If I’m booking a holiday I want to know about other people’s experiences rather than trusting to chance. Not that it helps that much anyway.
“The place was lovely but the review didn’t say anything about the ridiculous number of flies and what it would be like when it’s over 40 degrees,” my daughter tells me while I’m arguing the merit of trying new destinations.
“Or that the power just disappears randomly without warning” she adds, on a roll.
My daughter has a different policy from mine. For her, once she knows she likes something she is happy to return to it time and again and doesn’t understand why anyone would do anything different.
While I argue that this prevents life from being as interesting as it could be I also have an admiration for her resolve because I have been too influenced by other people.
My mother was my earliest critic and the review I read from her was that, in order to be loved, I needed to do what she expected. I’m not even sure its what she wanted, but it was what I interpreted.
I would do anything to avoid a one-star review.
There’s a poem by Rilke called “Go To The Limits Of Your Longing” which makes me think about my children and how my daughter’s limits seem to be conservative at the moment, although that might well change, and that she seems content within them. My son’s limits are ever pushing outwards and I watch him spread and grow into them with great joy. But mine have always been far beyond where I have been willing to tread and the critics seem to be a reminder of that.
“Do you want to try some of this Ben & Jerry’s Coconut and Caramel vegan ice cream?” I ask my daughter as she flops across the sofa with the dog lying in her lap.
“Sure. What made you buy that?” she asks.
“Oh, I read a review of it that said it tasted just like dairy so I wanted to give it a try.” I call back with my head in the freezer.