Arden hasn’t felt alive for years. Now in her 40s, she is still struggling to move her life forward. Being in a destructive marriage has taken its toil and the once happy-go-lucky person has turned into a reclusive, quiet individual who prefers watching the soaps on her own rather than meeting up with old friends who could possibly help her move on with her life.
That is until she bumps into Becky, an old university friend, who forces her to visit a mutual friend in the hospital. During this fleeting visit, her past re-emerges when she notices Mac, an old Warwick film lecturer, and lover, sleeping in the bed opposite.
Now in his 60s, Mac still looks just as he did 30 years before but with a few more distinguished lines surrounding his wonderful eyes. Unfortunately, he has had a nasty car accident leaving him mute and therefore Arden is unable to gain answers to the multitude of questions currently flying around her head. She also doesn’t want Becky to realise Mac still has an effect on her so waits and returns after their friend Dominic has been discharged – this way no one needs to know how much Mac still causes her to go weak at the knees.
It is then, after setting the scene at the beginning of You, Me and the Movies, that author Fiona Collins starts to reflect on the past and we begin to get snippets from both now and then (the then being 30-odd years ago back at Warwick University where things were definitely less complicated).
We learn that unfortunately, Arden doesn’t receive the required grades to join the coveted Film Studies course instead having to settle, as she describes it, for English Literature. That doesn’t, however, stop her seeking out the most talked-about young Lecturer on campus, Mac Bartley – Thomas.
The young lecturer is popular with the students and is not afraid to socialise with them, even holding parties in his own flat. So it is unsurprising that Arden soon finds a way to be in his company – at one of his very own house parties in fact, and makes a beeline for the handsome young man.
Soon they are passing glib comments backwards and forwards, trying to outwit one another and it’s not long before things become intimate. Mac is a lecturer, however, and an element of professionalism is still required so their relationship is quite clandestine, away from prying eyes.
It’s not just a physical attraction, however. It seems Mac is also keen to hear Arden’s thoughts on many of his favourite films and so we begin to read about not only how their relationship blossoms but also what they think about certain films, including Fatal Attraction and Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds.
“I tried to pre-empt what Mac might ask me afterwards. What was the significance of the lovebirds that Mitch fails to buy in the pet shop but which Melanie takes to his door in order to woo him? What was with all the cage imagery? The significance of Tippi’s green suit? I wanted to impress and excite him; I wanted to both challenge and contribute to his magnificent knowledge. “(Page 70)
Flitting back to the present, it is during the hospital visits that Mac, who is struggling with a bad case of Aphasia, remembers the occasional phrase relating to a movie he and Arden have watched together. We then head back in time once again to reflect on a period of their shared history.
Why does Arden keep visiting though? They haven’t seen each other in years, he was a married man and since then she has been hurt twice. Is she hoping to rekindle a flame or just trying to remember the person she once was before her ex turned her into a ghost of her former self?
She isn’t his only visitor either. It seems Mac has made quite an impression on his next-door neighbour, James, a 40-something, good-looking albeit nervous man.
James and Arden are an unlikely couple who spend their evenings in comfortable silence watching over Mac, praying for him to recover. Their relationship is nothing more than awkward silences with an occasional trip to the hospital canteen for weak tea and a hot chocolate. What will happen after the visits to the hospital stop though? Will they go their separate ways or is there unexpected friendship beginning to flourish?
Will Mac and Arden resume their affair once he is fit and healthy once again or is that something that needs to remain firmly in the past?
As with all true love stories, only time will tell, but is this novel as predictable as other long-lost love romances we all read about and watch unfold on our TV screens?
My Thoughts on You, Me and the Movies
Initially, we are introduced to Arden, a woman who has clearly had a difficult few years and as a reader peering in on her life, you cannot help but feel sorry for her. She has clearly been in a painful relationship and now is unable to return to a time before her abusive husband came on to the scene.
We are then introduced to Mac, a man that you want to hate but simply can’t. He was an adulterer and, it could be argued, preyed on Arden who was a freshman at University when he swiftly became part of her life.
We then have James, a bumbling 40-something who seems completely out of place and who feels more comfort remaining on the sidelines rather than getting involved. You have to question what part he is playing in the bigger storyline and whether he is simply there to add some more depth to a simple boy-meets-girl type of narrative.
Unlike other romance novels, however, there are some pretty serious undercurrents running throughout. We have to read about mentally abusive relationships, infidelity, miscarriages, and death as well as family disputes.
There is a true sadness written into this story and the melancholy grips you, trapping you inside and affects you in a way you don’t expect. It causes you to continue reading because you need to know that things will okay in the end.
I started reading You, Me and the Movies with one expectation but was left emotionally drained by the pensive, heartbreaking underlying stories that affect each and every one of the characters written about.
Fiona Collins’s narrative is sad but optimistic; passionate and intense. It is a romance novel with a difference; a story full of future promises.
You, Me and the Movies is a tragic romance story that film buffs around the world will fall in love with.
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