The mystery of The Movie Doctors is how it has taken Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode over a decade to write a book together. Published authors in their own rights – Mayo has a series of children’s books under his belt, while Kermode has authored a number of books on film – this book marks the offshoot of a new branch of the Kermode and Mayo relationship. Accompanied by a nationwide tour (the London date of which I will be attending), in their guise as the Movie Doctors, the pair of them will attempt to cure us all of our cinema dilemmas and movie ailments.
Fans of Wittertainment, the BBC’s flagship film programme, know that the show and its subsequent podcast isn’t really about films, in the same way that Jaws isn’t really about a shark. The Movie Doctors is about films though. It’s a lovely solid book, filled with ‘cures’ for all manner of medical conditions. Suggestions for Tinnitus include Interstellar, a film you ‘hear with your chest’, and The Raid, because ‘each crunched skull and smashed spine is like a small explosion going off in your head.’ And that’s the perfect distraction for the ringing in your ears, of course.
There’s an entire chapter devoted to fertility; film characters who will convince you that children aren’t a good idea (Sadako from Ringu and Regan MacNeil from The Exorcist, amongst others); a well balanced argument about whether or not to opt for the snip – the Toy Story trilogy and Mary Poppins as very strong arguments as to why you should continue to procreate – and a section on arousal. Yep, really.
We also get advice on phobias, ophthalmology (Emma Thompson can do no wrong), transplants and insomnia, and the book takes us right through to the morgue and beyond, as the doctors explore the after-life. There is room for all the old favourites that fans of the radio show will adore; a wonderfully written piece on the disaster of Heaven’s Gate at the hands of Michael Cimino, a one-paragraph long disagreement as to the virtues of Dougal and the Blue Cat for relieving stress, and various references to the likes of Amadeus, Silent Running and the aforementioned The Exorcist. We even get a whole lot of technical advice (including correct aspect ratio) from Dr Dave Norris, the last projectionist standing.
All of this incredible movie advice is packed into a book that looks and feels wonderful. Illustrations and charts, alongside film images, make this book a joy to hold in your hands and leaf through. A full page photo of Mary Poppins and a double-page spread of Pride means that two of my absolute favourite films are included, while Top Trumps, eye charts, and a recurring doctors’ casebook fill in the gaps between expert knowledge and minor disagreements.
And expert knowledge really is what we get here. What is so wonderful about the radio show is the way that after ten years, Kermode and Mayo have perfected the formula; Mark providing the expert criticism, with Simon on hand to keep his flights of fancy in check, and being the voice of the everyday cinema goer. That unique blend is in evidence throughout the book; film suggestions from people who feel like your friends, with enough expert knowledge behind it to reassure you they’d never steer you in the direction of an Adam Sandler film (unless it’s Punch-Drunk Love).
As someone who (clearly) is already a huge fan of this pair, The Movie Doctors has just served to cement my respect for Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode, who are, as it says on the front “The Nation’s Favourite Film Experts.” All I’m left wondering is what Sheila from Pudsey thinks of it.
The Movie Doctors by Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode
Published: 22nd October 2015
Review copy provided by publisher