The Movie Diary

The ties that bind

By Dom Cioffi

The cold weather gripping the country has put a damper on a lot of people’s fun – including my son. Because of this, we allowed him to have a couple of friends visit this past weekend to hang out and have a sleepover.

I’ve decided I hate sleepovers because the boys have reached an age where they basically refuse to sleep. It doesn’t matter how many times you tell them to quiet down, they still manage to sneak around, eat snacks and cause havoc.

And there’s only so long I can stay awake to reprimand them.

I may tell my wife that I put the hammer down, but these days I just give up and go to bed. I figure they have to suffer the lack of sleep before they finally realize it’s not a good idea.

The boys he had over recently are both good kids from nice families. I genuinely enjoy having them around. I know nothing too awful will happen with this group, which puts me somewhat at ease (at least for now).

Not surprisingly, video games dominated their attention. Other than a break for some pizza early in the night and sundaes around 11 p.m., most of their time was spent staring and yelling at the TV.

I told them they had to shut things down at 1 a.m., knowing full well that they would still be awake for hours. I then retired to my own bed, more than ready to drift off for the evening.

About 15 minutes after I went to bed, my son wandered in and nudged me. “What’s up?” I asked, as he sat next to me. “Thomas wants to go home,” he responded.

I immediately assumed Thomas was sick and asked if he threw up. In my mind I wrongly guessed the boys had acquired a huge stash of candy that Thomas overdosed on (I mean, it’s happened several times before).

“No,” my son countered. “He’s anxious about a math test.”

This response puzzled me. First of all, it was Saturday night and Monday was the MLK holiday, which meant that there was no school for a couple more days.

Not to mention, what kid is thinking about a math test during a sleepover?

I got up and wandered into the room where the other boys were chatting. As soon as I walked in, Thomas explained that he was really nervous about a math test and felt it was better if he went home. I argued that it was too late to get any real studying done so why not just spend the night and deal with that in the morning.

I could tell by the boy’s demeanor that I would not be changing his mind. Thomas then explained that he had already called his father who was on his way over.

At this point I was entirely confused and ridiculously tired so I simply sat in the living room until the boy’s dad arrived. When he pulled in, I met him at the door and apologized, explaining that I had no idea he had called. The father apologized back to me for obviously keeping me up past a reasonable hour.

I could tell by the dad’s demeanor that he was embarrassed. In the short conversation that followed, he explained that his son suffered from crippling anxiety and that he and his wife were tortured over it.

He went on to mention that they have no idea where it comes from since they have never stressed the need for superior grades. He says it seeps into all aspect of their son’s life: he has trouble with sports, can barely walk on stage for a band concert and gets nervous to the point of sickness whenever he’s asked to speak in front of his class. My heart broke for this kid once I realized the magnitude of his issue.

As the boy was leaving, my son met him at the door and casually stated, “Don’t worry, Thomas. If the test is really hard, I’ll let you cheat off me.”
This week’s film, “Phantom Thread,” features another individual with curious anxieties. However, in this case, this person uses his affliction to gain control of those around him.

Starring Daniel Day-Lewis as a 1950’s dressmaker in London, “Phantom Thread” (reportedly his last film) follows the artist as he weaves in and out of royalty and high-society circles, making clothing for the rich and famous.

Behind the scenes, however, is a complicated individual who demands that others behave in a fashion that he deems acceptable.

As you might expect, Day-Lewis is mesmerizing. He’s the greatest actor of his generation and proves it again here. His costars are equally talented, which makes for an interesting story.

However, many will find the subject matter and strange relationship dynamics between characters a bit difficult to connect with.

Check this one out if you love Daniel Day-Lewis, just be prepared for a very strange and quizzical love story.

An anxious “B+” for “Phantom Thread.”

Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at

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