Book Review – It’s Only A Movie by Mark Kermode

First published, 2010

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

It is hard to rate a book where the author is candidly so-so about whether he truly remembers what happened in his own life, or if he’s making it up. And yet, as I turned the pages, I found Mark Kermode’s stories and delivery both charming and self-effacing.

I started reading It’s Only A Movie because it was a Christmas present from my godmother who recognises me as (also) a film obsessive. I think most of us read a critique, or watch it on the telly, and that’s that. We’ll make a decision about what we’re going to watch/read/listen to and, whether the critic has helped or not, we’ll make our own decisions, sometimes in defiance of the review. Sometimes, it just so happens that you find a critic who has the same sensibilities as you, and then you know you’ve got an accomplice. You know not to waste your time with… or that ____________ is exactly what you’re looking for.

But that’s where it ends. I don’t think many of us give an awful lot of thought for what happens when a critic slates a film and then runs into one of its stars. I loved the story of how Mr Kermode shrivelled, almost into unbeing, when he was met by the sight of Dame Helen Mirren, wanting an explanation of why he had proclaimed 2006 Stephen Frears movie, The Queen, “not a film”.

I really liked the beginning. The early Kermode, blundering into jobs, exaggerating his experience and making it up as he went along, with varying levels of success, was a hoot.

I loved the stories from Russia. There was something Fawlty-esque about Mr Kermode’s exploits across the former USSR, and I found myself laughing out loud more than once.

Of course, Mr Kermode remembers (as I vaguely do) the time of the video nasties. I now realise that these were likely splatter movies. In my young-enough brain, I’d assumed they were porn. A different sort of splatter. But sensibilities being what they were, are and might well be, I think Mr Kermode delivered a very well thought-through, very profound explanation of censorship and his personal feelings around it.

But the real highlight for me was when Mark first met Linda Blair, star of his favourite film, The Exorcist. There’s something entirely endearing about a grown man, choosing a table that’s far too big for his needs, at a restaurant, and then methodically emptying out the contents of his bag, jacket pockets, whatever, to fill the space while he waits.