I don’t like being a snob about pop culture. I don’t like pooh-poohing films or TV series, books, comics or video games, that others seem to love. I generally try to find things to appreciate in most media I consume, and if others like them but I don’t, I try to put that down to personal taste. Sometimes, however, I look at what others say about a piece of pop culture and I simply don’t get it. I cannot reconcile what they say about it with the thing itself. It’s almost as if they watched, read or played something entirely different from me.
Dark isn’t entirely like this for me. There are things I genuinely appreciated in the German mystery series. I recognise some of my own reactions in those of others, but the longer Dark went on, the less I felt I could appreciate the things it was good at or ignore what I thought was decidedly less good. Undoubtedly, the makers of Dark are skilled stylists and the series excels at mood and atmosphere, especially in its first season – but then I read articles that call Dark smart, by people who pat themselves on the shoulder for enjoying such a smart, smart series, and my eyes roll in their sockets so much that all I see is blotchy, shapeless darkness.
Richard Curtis, I’ll happily admit: your 2013 film About Time made me smile, laugh and shed a manly tear. Okay, not quite, but I found myself touched and moved. It also made me want to shout obscenities and throw things at the TV, and not in good ways: About Time can be witty in one scene and trite in the next, it has moments of poignancy and others that are saccharine, and it manages to come off both charmingly self-effacing and smug under the disguise of glib humility.
Perhaps it’s difficult to imagine how such an overtly inoffensive film could leave me so angry when I’d actually say that I enjoyed a lot of it. About Time is that most common of genres, the time-travel rom-dram-com, and the way it brings together its outlandish conceit may be one of the things I liked best – like all the men in his bloodline, the main character Tim (played by Domhnall Gleeson) can travel back in time within the limits of his own life, making changes as he sees fit. Why? Dunno. How? He just needs to go and stand in a dark cupboard, clench his fists and concentrate. In one of many lovely father-and-son scenes, Tim’s dad (Bill Nighy, as charmingly odd as ever) basically gives his son a Curtisian version of Looper’s diagrams-and-straws speech which boils down to this: shh, it’s silly, let’s have some fun with this, okay?