12th October 2022
It's funny how when our lives combust nothing really happens, life just goes on. Going through a break up? Get a little haircut and move on. Your Mum dies? Drink an inexpensive bottle of wine, tie up loose ends and receive the mourning masses at the funeral you organised, before sucking it up and heading back to work. Sarah (the protagonist in Nana Mensah’s Queen of Glory) gets it. I get it...likely you get it too. Maybe, that’s not very funny, but that’s okay. If you don’t laugh, you’ll cry because at the very core of it, even when everything in our lives changes, nothing really changes.
This isn’t supposed to come off as unduly bleak, honestly – it’s the opposite…it's cliché but true that the small stuff we sweat – but the big stuff, we typically take in our stride with grace. The big stuff happens when your eye is busy focusing on the minutia. Life never lets the best of us get too comfortable and we, as an audience, sit in Queen of Glory’s protagonist’s discomfort as she reconciles with her mother’s sudden passing, which derails her plans to leave NYC and move to Ohio with her married boyfriend.
It’s relatable too. When I think back to some of the defining moments of my life – the real high octane, make or break moments – I have taken them on with the same reluctant responsibility as I would if someone asked me to mind their laptop while they nipped to the toilet in a cafe. I think probably that is the case for anyone, being thrust into whatever the next stage of their lives they are hurtling in to. This is a red thread throughout Queen of Glory as we follow Sarah dealing with the aftermath of her mother’s death, hosting a wake, planning the funeral – all while managing a Christian bookshop she has inherited and trying to keep her own plans alive.
It’s worth pointing out that this is coming from someone who regularly cries upon losing their keys when they’re already running late (hint: the keys are in the door), and who once in their teenage years bit hard into her phone out of sheer frustration. This is not coming from a calm, balanced or cerebral person, but the times I’ve really surprised myself with my own cunning and resilience in the face of adversity is when I accept where I'm at and go from there. Maybe it’s self-preservation, maybe it’s survival instinct, maybe it’s pragmatism, maybe it’s just going through the motions – my motivations will not be the same as Sarah’s, or yours, and I don’t even think it matters why we do it, just that we do.
So, is this what is at the core of surviving situations like Sarah’s – the Paradoxical Theory of Change? Understanding that you can't change anything until you fully realise and accept the situation you are in? The irony being that when we lose what we love, we want to keep it close in our dreams and memories. It's so hard to place yourself in the present because we hope in the future and remember in the past, but when our lives blow up – that’s happening in the lonely now.
I think in these explosive moments, we are stuck in an eternal struggle between what we had planned vs what life is planning for us. Yet, when we face these problems in the present, we start to reconcile with the past and work on our new future. This is why I have always felt like the important stuff just happens and, although they are rarely cinematic, they are defining moments. Moments for potential glory, now.
Katie Skinner is a freelance Script Supervisor based in Scotland.
Nana Mensah’s Queen of Glory is screening on Mon 17th Oct at 7.45pm.