Every Brilliant Thing (2016) - full transcript

A son creates a list of things worth living for--all in an attempt to raise the spirits of his chronically depressed mother--in this adaptation of the acclaimed one-character show.

♪ ♪

(indistinct chatter)

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

When I say five,
can you shout this out
for me really loud?

When I say two,

I need you to shout this out
for me really loud.

♪ ♪

When I say seven,
will you shout this out?

I mean,
really send it out, okay?

When I say 777,777,

can you just say,
"The prospect of dressing up
as a Mexican wrestler"?

When I say three,

can you say for me,
"Staying up past your bedtime

and being allowed to watch TV"?

♪ ♪

The list began

after her first attempt.

A list of every thing
that was brilliant
about the world.

Every thing that was
worth living for.

Number one.

Ice cream. (laughter)

Number two.

Water fights!

Number three.

Staying up past your bedtime

and being allowed to watch TV.

Absolutely. (laughter)

Number four.

The color yellow.

Jonny: The color yellow.

Number five.

Things with stripes.

(laughter) Number six.

Roller coasters!

Number seven.

People falling over.

Absolutely. (laughter)

All things that
at seven years old

I thought were really brilliant,

but not necessarily things

that my mum
would have agreed with.

It was the ninth
of November 1987.

I'm seven years old
and I'm standing outside

the school gates waiting
to be picked up,

and up until this moment,

my only experience of death

my entire life
is that of my dog,

Sherlock Bones.

And Sherlock Bones was
older than me

and he was a central part
of my existence

and he'd always been there,

but he was sick.

He was really sick.

In fact, he was so sick

that the vet came
to put him down.

Now, I hope you don't mind,
I'm actually going

to ask you to play the vet.
Is that okay?

It's just you've got
a very immediately

veterinary quality.

But I'm not sure what the... Do...

Are you a vet
by any chance? No?

Okay, fine. Um...

I've not been right yet,
but it could one day happen.

So you're gonna be
the vet, okay?

So, if you don't mind,
could you just stand for me?

And can I borrow
your big coat?

Great. Okay.

So you're the vet, okay?

And I'm me
as a seven-year-old boy,

and this here...




This is little...

Sherlock Bones.

And, um, do you know what?

I already know you actually
'cause you're one of the mums

from school,
and I've seen you come

to pick your girl up, and, um...

when I see you,
you say something

immediately kind and reassuring,

like, "You're doing
the right thing.

It's not a moment too soon."

You're doing the right thing.

It's not a moment too soon.

And I don't know
what that means. I'm seven.

I have no sense
of finality or infinity,

but what I do know
straight away,

what's really clear to me,

is that you are very clearly
a lovely person,

and so I'm very relaxed
around you.

And, um, do you have on you
a pen or maybe a pencil?

Yes. Okay.

Great. Okay,
so that pen there,
that's the needle...


...and inside that needle,

there's a drug
called pentobarbital,

and the dose is strong enough
to render the dog unconscious

and put him to sleep

and depress his little brain
and his respiratory system

So, when you are ready,
I want you to come over,

and you're going to inject
Sherlock Bones in the thigh.

This thigh here. Sorry. Oh.

Now, I'm gonna stop.
You are doing brilliantly.

Okay. You did really fantastic.

I'm surprised you haven't
done any vet work, but...

(laughter) Just one note.

Just one, and that's
when you're putting down

the beloved dog of a small boy,

you really
shouldn't smile
like that.

(laughter) I mean, it really...

You see how it...
I mean, it really changes
the tone of the...

The euthanasia
no longer seems kind,

uh, if you're enjoying it.

Should we, um...
Let's do it again.

Let's go back to your mark.
Let's get this right.

I mean, this is...
This is pretty important,

so we need to get
this just right.

Okay, so, um,
take a deep breath...

...and when
you're ready,

let's do it again.

That's great.

And now stroke his little head.


And I held Sherlock Bones,

who was older than me

and a central part
of my existence,

and I held him as he died.

And I thought about
his toys in the garden,

and I thought about
the smell of him in my room,

and I thought about
his recently opened
packet of food,

and his little bed
under the stairs,

all the things we could
throw away now.

And I as I held him, he changed.

He became heavier or lighter.

I don't know which,
but different.

And that was
my experience of death,

a loved one becoming an object

and being taken away forever.

Thank you.

So, it's the ninth
of November 1987.

I'm seven years old
and I'm standing outside

the school gates waiting
to be picked up,

and normally,

it's my mum who comes to get me,

and normally she's on time,

and normally I sit
in the back of the car

because I'm seven.
I make things sticky.

But this time, it's my dad,

and he's late and it's dark.

Now, I hope you don't mind, sir,

I'm going to ask you
be Dad, okay?

Very briefly, I want you
to come and sit for me
on this step.

So Dad pulls up in his car...

and he immediately opens
the passenger seat of the car.

It's a British car,
so that's this side.


There's a moment
when something goes
wrong in life,

and the body picks up on it

about a beat before
the brain can understand why,

and that's what's going on here.

I look at Dad,
and he looks at me,

and we both know.

And he's been smoking
with the window down

and he's got the radio on

and eventually I come over

and I get in the car beside him.

You scooch. Okay.

So in this scene, what's
actually gonna happen is,

I'm gonna be Dad
and you're gonna be me
as a seven-year-old boy.

You don't have to worry
because you don't have
to do much.

But whatever I say,
you just immediately say,
"Why?" Okay?

Why? Perfect. Great.

Put on your seatbelt. Why?

Because cars can be

Because other drivers
don't always pay attention.


Because there's a lot
to think about when
you're a grown-up.

Because there's
bills to pay,

and there's work to do,

and there's family
and friends to see,

and there's relationships
to sustain

and there isn't enough time
to do it all.


Because there's only
24 hours in a day.

Because that's how long it takes

for the Earth to rotate.


I don't know.

(laughter) Why?

Because I don't
know everything.

Because that's impossible. Why?

Because if I was
to know everything,

then life would be

Because then there would
be no mystery, no curiosity,

no conversation, no discovery.

Nothing would be new,
and we'd have no reason
to use our imagination,

and it's our imagination
that makes life worth living.


Because, um, in order
to live in the present,

we have to imagine a future
that's better than the past.


Because that's what hope is,
and without hope,

we don't know how
to carry on.

Because would you just
put your seatbelt on

and stop asking me questions?


Because we're going
to the hospital.


Because that's where
your mum is.


Because she hurt herself.


Because she's sad.


I don't know.


I just don't.


Put on your seatbelt. Why?

Because Mum's
in the hospital.

Because she tried
to kill herself.


Because she can't think
of anything worth living for.


At least, that's how
I remember the conversation.

But what he actually said
to me was this.

And you now repeat this
to the room, okay?

"Your mum's done
something stupid."

Your mum's done
something stupid.

But I didn't know
what that meant.

Thank you. You were excellent.

Thank you. You were excellent.



At the hospital,
Mum immediately saw me
and said, "Not him."

So, I went
into the hospital corridor

and I sat down
with a nice old couple.

Hello. Hello.


And they immediately gave
me some chocolate

from the machine. Thank you.

Now, I'm not sure where it was

that I first had
the idea for the list,

but it was here
with the old people

that I decided
I would write it down.

Number one.

Ice cream!

Number two.

Water fights.

Number three.

Staying up past your bedtime

and being allowed to watch TV!

(laughs) That's good.

Number four. The color yellow.

Number five.

Things with stripes.

Number six.

Roller coasters.

Number seven.

People falling over!

Yeah, people falling over
is funny.


Number eight. Chocolate.

Number nine.
Kind old people
who are not weird

and don't smell unusual.


I don't like it.


Dad was in with Mum for ages,

but eventually he came
out of her hospital room,

and I followed him
down the stairs,

and I followed him
into the hospital corridor,

and I followed him
all the way down
into the car park

and into the car,
and then he drove us home.

And then when we got home,
I followed him back

out of the car
and into the house,

and I followed him
all the way up the stairs
to his study,

where he went in before me
and he shut the door

before I had a chance
to follow him any further.

Now, I knew what to do with Dad.

He would put on
particular kinds of music

to let me know how to behave.

If it was this lady singing,

then I knew it was okay
to go straight into the room.

♪ I wake and I find you asleep ♪

♪ In the deep of my heart ♪

If it was the sort
of music you could sing

or maybe dance to,

then it was okay
to go into the room,

but I ran the risk
of being hugged

or maybe spun around
in his chair.

(woman vocalizing)

If nobody was singing
on the track,

that meant Dad was working,

and so I needed to be quiet.

(instrumental jazz playing)

And if it just sounded
like old musical instruments

were falling down
the stairs at once,

well, then that meant I really
ought to leave him alone.

(improvisational jazz playing)

Yes, yes, that's quite
enough of that.

Thank you. (music ends)

And so, I stood outside his door

and waited to be
told what to do.

(improvisational jazz playing)

I went downstairs

and I carried on with the list.

It occurred to me that
the list should be presented

in no particular order.

I mean, there was no way
of saying, for instance,

that spaghetti with meatballs

was intrinsically better
than Garfield.

I fell asleep in front of the TV

and Dad must have
carried me to bed.




Spaghetti with meatballs!


Wearing a cape.


Peeing in the sea
and nobody knows.


That week was tough.

I had to go and see
the school counselor,

who was actually
just Mrs. Patterson

from the sixth grade.

She was the sort
of woman you saw

and you knew straight away
you could trust,

who was a good person,
who was loving and loyal.

Now, I'm going to ask you
to be Mrs. Patterson,

but I don't want you
to worry 'cause you
don't have to do much.

But you just stay where you are.

What Mrs. Patterson would do
in her counseling sessions...

And I will admit,
this might now seem strange,

but please bear in mind
this was a while ago
and she got results.

What she would do,
when you arrived,

is she would first
take off one shoe...


...and then she'd
take off the sock...


...and then she'd take that sock

and she'd put it over
her arm like this...


...and then she'd talk to you
through her little sock dog.


And her little sock dog
was called...
What did you call him?

Kino. Kino. Of course.

The perfect name for a sock dog.

And he was a brilliant listener,

and he would always start
every session by asking

lovely questions, like,
"How are you doing today?"

How are you doing today?

I'm very well. Thank you, Kino.

How are you? I'm all right.

(chuckles) You're brilliant.

I love you.

What kind of dog are you?

I'm a dachshund. A dachshund!

They're the best dogs
in the whole world

'cause they're really small

and they're very near the ground

and they look stupid.


I think you're brilliant!

I'm gonna put you on
my list of brilliant things.

Have I told you about
my list of brilliant things?

No. Tell me. Okay.

I'm making a list

of every thing that's
brilliant about the world.

Don't go on about it,
but I'm probably a genius.

And you're going to be
number 101,

Kino, the talking dachshund.

Okay, I need to go now,

but it's been lovely
talking to you. Bye!

I left Mrs. Patterson

and Kino the talking dachshund,

and I went out to play.


Now, Mum did finally come home
from the hospital,

and when she did,
I took the list,

which by this point had

314 items on it,

and was spread over eight pages,

and I put it on her pillow
with the title

"Every Brilliant Thing."

She never mentioned it
to me directly,

but I know that she read it

because she corrected
my spelling.


I don't want anyone to think
that Mum was a monster

or that my childhood was sad
because that's not true.

My childhood was wonderful,
and Mum was so much fun.

I mean, we had a piano
in the kitchen,

and we used to gather 'round it

and we would sing
old soul songs.

There's a wonderful
old soul song

that my mum
used to love singing called

"Drown in my Own Tears"
by Ray Charles,

and she used to love
singing this bit:

♪ ♪

♪ Why can't you ♪

Oh, and I love the moment

when Ray Charles sings
the word "you."

I mean, it... it sounds like

it's coming out
of someone else's voice.

We all used to gather
'round the piano

and we'd just howl it
like wolves.

Number 313.

Having a piano in the kitchen.

Number 314.

The way Ray Charles sings
the word "you."

Ah, absolutely.

♪ ♪

♪ I guess I'll ♪

♪ Drown in my own tears ♪

I forgot about the list

until her second attempt
10 years later.

And as a teenager,
I dealt with it less well.

You know, I... I wore my heart
on my sleeve, um...

I remember the night

she came home from the hospital.

She sat at the kitchen table
and she said

if it wasn't for the ham
and pineapple pizza

lining her stomach
from the night before,

she'd be dead.

And I said,

"You took an entire
blister pack of aspirin,

"half a thing
of antidepressants,

"and a whole load
of antihistamine.

"I mean, you're probably
healthier than I am.

You wanna kill yourself,
go jump off a bridge."


And then rather than
storm out of the room

as fast as I possibly could,

I just sat there
and I shoveled as much food

into my mouth as possible.

See, I was so angry with her.

I'd spent so long
cooking this meal

and all she could do was
sit there and let it go cold

and wish she was dead.

There was a deafening silence...

and then she started to laugh.

It was such a genuine
and wonderful laugh

that I found myself
laughing with her,

and we just sat at the table
laughing like idiots.

Eventually, it was Dad
who got up and left,

went to listen to records
in his study.

And that night,
I went into my bedroom

and I started to pack away
the things I no longer wanted.

You know, the things
I felt I could live without

and as I was doing it,
I caught sight of myself

and I realized I was shaking.

Have you ever had that,
when you're shaking

and your heart is racing
and you're surrounded

by things and you think,
"I'm really upset"?

And then in a box,
under the bed,

underneath some stickers
and an action man,

I found the list,

and I sat down on the floor
and I read through it.

You see, as a little boy,

I dealt with this
so much better.

I mean, I hadn't been

I'd been naive.

But I'd been hopeful.

So eventually,
I just picked up a pen

and I carried on where that
little boy had left off.


The smell of old books.


Andre Agassi. Absolutely.

Now, Andre Agassi, yes.

It was the '90s.
Uh, but he is a genius,

and, um...

you know, and then
he married Steffi.



The even numbered
"Star Trek" movies.

Oh, yes. (laughter)

One and three are terrible.



Laughing so hard you shoot
milk out of your nose.


Making up after an argument.

I took the list
and I went and sat
and the end of Mum's bed,

and I read it to her,
and she got up
and left the room.

So, I started following her
around the house,

reading out bits
of the list to her.


Winning something.


Knowing someone
well enough to get them

to check your teeth
for broccoli.

Yes. Or spinach or kale.
Very popular here.


I started to write things
onto Post-It notes

and stick them
all over the house
as reminders for Mum.

Number 575.

Woman: Piglets.


Man: Marlon Brando.

And number 14. Woman: Bed.

That's right.

Now, every morning,
I would wake up

and I'd find a small stack
of these Post-It notes
outside my door.

So, I became more inventive.

I started rearranging
the fridge magnets.

I started carving things
into pieces of fruit.

I remember writing 201.

Inside the lid
of some mustard,

And 324.

Ham and mayo sandwiches.

Stenciled onto a baguette.


Now, I wanted to make it to
a thousand individual items.

But I set myself some rules.

Things had to be genuinely
wonderful and life-affirming.

There weren't to be
too many material items,

and no repetitions if possible.

For the next few weeks,
the list became my sole focus.


Deciding you're not
too old to climb trees.

(chuckles) 823.

Skinny dipping.

And then, in the final weeks
before I left for university,


Knowing to jangle
some keys at the zoo

if you want
the penguins to come out.

It makes them think
it's feeding time.



Having desert
as a main course.
Oh, my goodness.



Hairdressers who listen
to what you want.

This is vital.

I mean, if you ever
find one of these people,

you keep hold of them for
the rest of your life, okay?

995. Bubble wrap.


Really good oranges.

I began to be troubled
by the thought

that my mum no longer
loved my dad.

But I put the thought
out of my mind

and I carried on with the list.


(distantly) Cycling downhill!


You made it sound
like it was downhill!


Aw, you go on the list too.


Pad Thai with chicken.


It's common
for the children of suicides

to blame themselves.

It's a very natural reaction.



And however much
you know it's not fair,

you can't help but feel
like you've failed them.

It's not fair
to feel this way,
but it's natural.

In the first week of university,

I took the list,
I put it into an envelope,

and I mailed it
to my mother anonymously.



When I came home
for Christmas that year,

I found the list...

neatly folded up
in a drawer in my desk.

I have no idea
if Mum ever read it, and...

if she had, it certainly
hadn't affected her outlook.

I took the list, I folded it up

between the pages of a book,
and I forgot about it.

That Christmas was
quiet and awkward.

In the new year, dad drove me
back to university

and he gave me his record player

and he gave me a box
of his records.

I wanted to ask him why,
but I knew better than that.


The whole journey,
we didn't say a word.

We just sat there
and we listened to the radio.

♪ Come to me
my melancholy baby ♪

At university,
I was incredibly shy.

I mean,
I didn't socialize so much.

I wouldn't go out
if I could avoid it.

I would just sit in my room

and I would listen
to my records, um...

I would even skip lectures
if I could because, you know,

I didn't want to leave my room.

But there was one lecturer
I would always be there for

because there was something
about him that was
just incredible.

You know, something mesmerizing.

And he always wore
a scarf and a hat.

I hope you don't mind, um...


I'm going to ask you
to take on this role.

I'm not sure why.

Um, if you could just
come with me.

I'd like you to play
the lecturer.

So if you would just stand

in the center
of the room for me...


What he would do
at the start of every lecture

is he would give
a lecture on this book.

"The Sorrows of Young Werther"
by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe,

and first he would
take the book like this

and he would hold it aloft...


...and then he would create
a real sense

of dramatic tension

with a long silence in the room.


Perfect! (laughter)

And when he felt
he had absolutely

built the tension to a maximum,

he would give a very accurate

and detailed précis
of the novel.


Just read... read...
Read the back.

"Visiting an idyllic
German village,

"Werther meets and falls in love

"with sweet-natured Lotte,

"and his infatuation
torments him to a point

"of absolute despair.

"The first great
confessional novel,

"the book was
an immediate success

"and a cult rapidly
grew up around it,

"resulting in suppression
on the grounds

of its apparent
recommendation of suicide."

Excuse me.

I have a question. Yes, sir?

You've taken on
this role brilliantly.

I mean it. (laughter)

I want you to know
I'm delighted.

Are you saying that a book,

that this book made people
want to take their own lives?

I am.

And you still want
us to read the book?

I do.

Ladies and gentlemen,
my lecturer!

Thank you very much!
You were wonderful!

I left the lecture

and I went straight
to the library,

and I read up
on social contagions:

obesity, suicide, divorce.

We are preconditioned

to follow the behavior
of our peers.

In the weeks
and months following

Marilyn Monroe's
death by suicide,

the number of suicides
here in the US spiked by 12%.

The same is true
when a character

on prime time television
takes their own life.

It's called the Werther effect,

named after
Goethe's protagonist.

Suicide is contagious.

The greatest precursor
to a suicide

is a knowledge of suicide.

When I first read about this,
I was really scared,

and then I was really angry
because I thought about

the way suicide is presented
in the media.

I mean, there are
a set of guidelines

written by the Samaritans
on how you should

accurately and sensibly
report a suicide.

It is astounding how rarely
the media follow them.

"Leave out technical details
about the method of suicide.

"Never suggest that
a method is quick,

"easy, painless, or certain
to result in death.

"Avoid dramatic headlines
and terms such as

"'suicide epidemic'
or 'hot spot'.

"Avoid dramatic
or sensationalist pictures
or video.

"Avoid using the word 'commit.'

"Don't describe death
by suicide as successful.

Don't speculate on the reason."

I mean, that's really crucial.

Don't provide simplistic reasons

for why someone would
do something drastic

like, uh, he'd recently
lost his job

or she'd become bankrupt.

I read the book,

"The Sorrows
of Young Werther..."

and it was shit. (laughter)

I mean, I had no interest
in it whatsoever,

but then to be fair,
I've never had any interest

my whole life in romance.

That is, I never had done,

until I caught the eye
of the only other person

who was always in the library.

(romantic music playing)


♪ At last ♪

Our eyes met

across the crowded room.

I looked at her,

and for the first time
in my life,

I understood the meaning
of the lyrics to pop songs.

We would see each other
across a crowded room.

We'd catch each other's eye
and then we'd both

look away as if blinded
by the light.

And eventually after weeks,

I built up the courage
to go over and say hello.


Could you, um,
deal with this? Thank you.


♪ The skies above are blue ♪

Teeth. Broccoli? It's fine? No.

Oh, good. Okay, great.

♪ My heart was
wrapped up in clover ♪

♪ The night I looked at you ♪

Could I get you to move?

Would that be all right?

Could I just put you
where... elsewhere?

Could you just come and sit...

Maybe just come
and sit here with the vet.

Um, okay. Thank you.

Say, I'm so sorry.
Enjoy the show.



Is anyone sitting here?

Not anymore. Oh, great.

(laughter) Um... May I join you?

Sure. Thank you.

Hello. Hi.

Um... You're lovely. Thanks.

What's your name? Alex.

No, no, no.

Um... No, in the story,
she's called Sam.

What's your name?

Sam. Oh, hi, Sam.

Lovely to meet you.
Hi. Pleasure.

What are you read...
Oh, God, no. I'm so sorry.

We're in a library,
so I need two books.

I need a coup...
Did anyone bring a book?

I need... we need
a couple of books.

Did anyone bring a book?
Not that one.

Awful. Very bleak.

Did you... I've got
a book here.
Thank you very much.

That's... Ah, that's great.

And... and someone else,
another book?

Oh, one over here.
Thank you so much.

Ooh. Rush...

It's quite a journey.

Um, okay.

What are you reading?

"Giovanni's Room." Oh, wow.

Wh... what's it about?


Funny you should ask.
It's set in the 1950s Paris

of American expatriates,
liaisons, violence.

A young man finds himself

caught between desire
and conventional morality.

Oh, wow.

You are so concise. Um...

I'm reading...

(sighs) (laughs)

I'm reading
"Catcher in the Rye." Um...


You see, I didn't go
to middle school, so, um...

...so I've never read
it before.

But it's... it's great.

I didn't realize how much
everyone was a phony

and, uh, but it's lovely.

Have you read it?

Yeah. Yeah, everyone has.

Um, but do you know what?
I mean, if... it...

It's worth reading again.
A lot of people don't realize

it's... it's... I mean,
'cause it's so...

And do you know what? Um...

If you wanted, um...
we could swap books

and... and I could read
"Giovanni's Room,"

um, and you could read
"Catcher in the Rye" again,

and... and if you wanted,

we could meet up
and we could, um...

we could talk about the books

and we could go
for a... a you know,
a... a... a coffee

or... or... or a cup of tea.

Or... or... or... or... or...
Or... or an orange juice

and... and... and then...
And then we could,

you know, maybe at 5:00
on a Tuesday,

we could go for a, you know,
we could have a little...

I mean... we...
'cause I don't want
to be too... with...

'cause I... maybe that's
a bit too...

Would that be awkward?

Would you mind if...
I mean, would you...

Would that...
Would that be all right...

Would that be all...
If... if I was to...


I think so.

I had a date!

For the next few weeks,
Sam and I were just

constantly exchanging books,

and she would read
the books that I loved,

and I would read
the books that she loved.

And then one day,
she gave me a particular book

and she said,

"Really interesting read."

Really interesting read.

"There's something
in this book..."

I think there's something
in this book...

"...that I want you to read."
...that I want you to read.

Which because
I'm a complete idiot,

I didn't realize
was some sort of code

until weeks later

when I opened the book
and the list fell out.

And I was mortified.

I mean, I'd never told
anyone about my mother.

No one my whole life. I mean...

When I was a little boy,
there would be times at school

when I wouldn't have socks on,

you know, or...
or there wouldn't be
any food in my lunch box.

And I didn't want
people to think

that just because
my mother was...

And out of context,
it was just a stupid list.

I mean, to think that
a list of brilliant things

can combat hard-wired depression

is just so embarrassing
and naive.

I got so angry,
I went to tear the list up.

And then I... looked down it

and I saw
someone else's handwriting,

and I read it, and it said...


When someone lends you books.


When someone actually
reads the books you give them.

(chuckles) 1,002.

When you learn something
about someone

that surprises you
but which makes perfect sense.


Realizing that for
the first time in your life,

someone is occupying
your every waking thought,

making it hard to eat
or sleep or concentrate,

and that they feel
familiar to you,

even though they're brand-new.


Finding the opportunity
to say this in a way

which doesn't involve
being in the same room

at the same time
as we're both shy

and terrified of rejection,

and if I don't say something
now, it'll never happen.

(chuckles) 1,005.

Writing about yourself
in the third person.


Thank you.

I have a piece of advice
for anyone

who's ever considered
taking their own life.

It's an incredibly simple
piece of advice,
and it's this:

Don't do it. Things get better.

I mean, they don't always
get brilliant...

but they get better.

Thank you.

The next thing I'm going to say

to you is going to be...

incredibly hard
for some of you to hear,

especially maybe
the younger people
in the house today.

But when I first read this,

it was the middle of the night,

and back then,
in the middle of the night,

there was no means
of communication,

no Facebook,
no Instant Messenger.

This world is called 1998.


And so, all I could do
for the next few hours

was just stare down the list,

and eventually,
I picked up a pen

and I carried on
where Sam had left off.




The fact that sometimes
there is a perfect song

to match how you're feeling.

There absolutely is! Hit it!

♪ ♪
Okay, hold on.

I've got an idea.
Right, hold on.

♪ Hush now child ♪

Dancing in private.


Dancing in public, fearlessly.


Reading something
which articulates

exactly how you feel
but lack the words
to express yourself.

And I kept on going.

I passed 1,427.

Not worrying about how much
money you're spending

on holiday because
all international currency

looks like Monopoly money.

(laughter) And I kept on going!

I passed 1,654.

Christopher Walken's voice.


Christopher Walken's hair.

And then 1,857.

Planning a declaration of love.

And 2,000. Coffee.

And 2,001. This song!

Especially the drums
on this track.

Now, the single version ends
after about three minutes,

but the album track continues
for another four minutes,

and there's the most
extraordinary extended
drum break,

including a full kit,
cowbells, and bongos.

In fact, do you know what?

Any song with a full kit,
cowbell, and bongos.

Have you heard
"I'm a Man" by Chicago?

Because 2,006.
"I'm a Man" by Chicago.

2,007. Vinyl records.

I'm not being pretentious.
The sound quality is better.

I mean, it's tactile.
It's not been compressed.

You, uh, you get to feel
the weight of it.

You can't skip like you can
with MP3s and CDs.

Dad's study was just
covered with vinyl,

and I used to love
going through
the gatefolds sleeves,

the making of the object.

In the morning, I took the list,

I went to the library,

and Sam and I kissed
for the very first time.

And from then on,
I just kept adding to it

every day more and more
as a present for her.

♪ Take nothing less ♪

2,389. Badgers.

2,390. People who can't sing,

but either don't know
or don't care!

4,997. Gifts you really wanted
but didn't ask for.

9,993. Dreams of flying.

9,994. Friendly cats.

9,995. Falling in love.

9,996. Sex.

9,997. Watching
someone watching
your favorite film ever.

9,998. Being cooked for.

9,999. Staying up all night
talking to someone.

10,000. Waking up
with someone you love!

Hit it!

(drums) Okay!

This is the drum break

that I've been
telling you about!

Now, I know what
you're all thinking.

"It just sounds like
a load of drums."

But hold on a second.

You are about to hear bongos!

You are not getting into this
in the way I had anticipated.


Uh, can you hold this, sir?

Thank you. Uh, right. Okay.

I'm gonna try
to be more American!

Um, right. Would everyone
hold up their right hand?

I'm gonna high-five
the whole room!

Are you ready?



US... This is exhausting!

US... Oh, I'm like Oprah!


Now, I might have
made a... Charlie?

Charlie? (music stops)

I'm so sorry.

It's actually...

It's actually a lot
harder than that looks.

You see, the thing is my mum,

she would do things like this.

She would, uh,
she'd get carried away.

Great big ups, great big downs.

When I was a little boy,
it wasn't shyness

or awkwardness that
made me like I was.

It was that...

happiness scared me...

because happiness is
always followed by this...

well, you know.

And this...
this was completely new.

I'd never felt like this
before in my whole life.

Never once.

Children with depressed mothers,

they have a heightened
reactivity to stress,

and, um... that makes sense

because children
with depressed mothers,

they have to fend
for themselves.

But the risk...

that I'd felt my whole life,
I mean, the real risk...


...was that one day
I would wake up

and I'd feel exactly
like my mum did,

and I'd want to take
the same course of action,

because alongside the anger
and the incomprehension

was an absolute,
crystal-clear understanding

of why someone would no longer
want to keep on living.

I took Sam to meet my parents
really soon after this...

and they were brilliant.

They were amazing.
They were wonderful.

It was awful. (laughter)

I mean, it made it seem
like I'd exaggerated

everything from my childhood.

I mean, Dad was phenomenal.

He made a lasagna,

played Cab Calloway records.

Mum told a story
I have never heard before

about breaking a guy's nose
on a train in Egypt.

And then after dinner,
for the first time in years,

we got out the piano...

and we sat around it

and we sang old soul songs.


Could I borrow you
just for a moment

to take an end
and maybe you as well?

If you could take
an end each, that would be g...

Thank you. Sorry.
I haven't thought this...

That's great. Great.

(exhales) Okay.


Because we're in the round,

we're just gonna do
a very slow revolve.



Clockwise obviously. Yeah.

It was always Mum
who would start first.

♪ ♪

♪ I'm so blue ♪

♪ Here with you ♪

♪ It keeps raining
oh, more and more ♪

♪ Why can't you ♪

And Dad would
normally never sing,

but this time he was amazing.

And he sung...

♪ ♪
♪ That's life ♪

♪ That's what people say ♪

♪ Riding high in April ♪

♪ Shot down in May ♪

And, um, rather spectacularly.

♪ And now the end is near ♪

♪ And so I face
the final curtain ♪

Which for me was
a little too on the nose.

Oh, and rather brilliantly, um,

♪ Wake me up before you go-go ♪

♪ Don't leave me hanging on
like a yo-yo ♪

Which he'd never
actually heard before,

and so sounded
a lot more like...

(plays slower)
♪ Wake me up
before you go-go ♪

♪ Don't leave me hanging on
like a yo-yo ♪

I mean, basically dreadful.


The last song of the night
belonged to Sam.

It's one of
the most beautiful songs

I've ever heard my whole life.

It's called
"Some Things Last a Long Time"

by Daniel Johnston.

And after she sang that,

there was no way
anyone could top it.

♪ ♪

♪ Your picture ♪

♪ Is still ♪

♪ On my wall ♪

♪ Some things last a long time ♪

♪ Some things last a long time ♪

Thank you very much.

The list grew.

By this point, anything
generic or universal,

they'd long since been used up

and so list entries became
more and more specific.


The feeling of calm
which follows the realization

that although you may be
in a regrettable situation,

there's nothing
you can do about it.

That's right.


Track seven
on every great record.



The prospect of dressing up
as a Mexican wrestler.

That's right.

And not, I should add,

the action of dressing up
as a Mexican wrestler.

Just the prospect of it.

Sam and I got married.

That was after university.

That was, uh...
that was beautiful.

Sam proposed to me.

She got down
on one knee and she...

You know, it was great.
Let's just do it.


So we're walking
through the park, Sam and I,

(birds chirping) and I said,

"This is where I grew up.

This is where I used to walk
little Sherlock Bones."

And we both stopped
to think about that.

(both inhale)

(both exhale)

And then she stayed
where she was

and I kept on going,
and you know what?

I think she bent down
to tie up a lace...

because when I turned around,
there she was on one knee.

And she looked at me...

and she held out
both her hands...

and she said...

Will you marry me?
And I said, "Yes."

Let's kiss later. Okay.


Thank you.

And so we had a wedding!

(wedding music playing)

We got married!

We hired a hall,
we hired caterers,

we hired a band...

Even my vet came!

And the lecturer!

We hadn't invited
either of them, but...

Dad made a speech.

Oh, it was the most beautiful
speech you will ever hear.

You know, just ama...
And you know Dad.

I mean, he hated
this sort of thing.

He hated getting up
in front of people.

He hated having to say words

and I said to him,
"Dad, you don't have to make

a speech if you don't want to."

And he said,
"No, I want the opportunity

"to get up
in front of these people

and say a few words."

Ladies and gentlemen,
in a break with tradition,

please put your hands together

for the father of the groom.

(applause) Thank you.

Say whatever's
in your heart, Dad.


(string music playing)
It's hard at this moment

to hold back the tears of joy

I feel for the two of you.

Sam, that you see
in my son all the beauty

that his mom and I have
always seen in him,

but maybe we never were able
to really express.

It was like the times
when he asked me "Why?"


And sometimes I would
lose patience, but...

I knew that he was
at least listening

and you can't really
ask much more

from a seven-year-old boy.


But I hope for the two of you

that he always lifts you up
as he did that day

as you were walking in the park

and that the patience
that you had, Sam,

to wait for his kiss

because he didn't want to do it

in front of so many others...

that in that intimacy
that the two of you share

that you grow together.


(cheers and applause)

Thank you so much.
You were great.

My dad, everyone!

(cheers and applause)

After the speeches,
when we recovered...


...dried our eyes a little,

we got to hear Mum,
sat at the piano,

singing old soul songs.

And then Sam
and I took a honeymoon.

We went to Whitstable in Kent.

We had... (laughter)

That's not a laughter moment.
That's just where we...

It was wonderful. (chuckles)

We had the most amazing seafood.

We were so happy.

And then we moved to London

and we got jobs.

We got a new flat.

We got a mortgage,
we got a joint bank account,

we got a car, we got a cat,

which peed on everything
and then ran away...

which we called
Margaret Scratcher.


And we settled into a routine.

We got used to each other.

We argued.

I mean, we argued
about little things.

We argued about whether
we were ready

to start a family,
we argued about

whether we should live
in the city of the country.

But we had one argument
in particular,

and Sam always used to say to me

that I should get some help,
that I should go

and see someone professionally,

but that made me so angry...

because I knew
what depression was

and I knew that I was fine.

See, we had a study
at the top of our apartment,

and I would sit there,
and I would listen
to records and...

whenever I listen to records,

I always go through the...
the sleeve notes.

You know, the liner notes
inside the disc.

You see, the lives
of other people

have always fascinated me.

So, whenever I...

listen to music,
I always find out

about the making of the object,

the trials and tribulations
behind the music.

Albert Ayler,

Ronnie Singer, Weldon Irvine,

all amazing musicians,

all took their own lives.

See, I was so grateful
that I was ordinary.

Sam said I was wallowing.

That I was isolating myself,
that I was becoming morose,

so she said I should
carry on with the list,

but I couldn't think
of anything new to write down.




The list stalled...

just 173,021 shy of a million.

It was over.

So, I put it in a box
and I threw it away...

and I sat in the study

while Sam packed away
her things.

I helped her carry boxes
to her car.

I stood in the doorway

while she sat
at the wheel of the car

and she looked at me,
and I looked at her...

and the engine was running.

She drove away.

She left me a note
inside the sleeve of a record.

The Daniel Johnston song
she sung at...

my parents' house.
She knew one day,

I'd want to think of her
and I'd put the record on.

And I'd go through
the sleeve notes

and I'd find her note,
and the note said

that she loved me...

and that when I was ready,
we would try again.

But I didn't find the note
for seven years, so...

Perhaps Sam was right.

Perhaps I was
very difficult to love.

Perhaps I was
very difficult to live with.

But I couldn't hear it from her.

You know, I... I had to
hear it from somebody else,

and so one day, I did
one of the strangest things

I've ever done.

Mrs. Patterson...

Mrs. Patterson,
I'm so sorry to call you

in the middle of the night.

I know you're retired now.

I know you've,
um, left the school.

I know 'cause I rang them
and I asked for your number.


I don't know if you remember me.

I'm the little boy
with the list.

Do you remember me?

I do remember you. (chuckles)

This is gonna sound
really strange, but...

do you remember you had
a little sock dog?

I do.

Could you...


(chuckles) Hello.


How are you?

I'm fine. How are you?

Well, I'm calling a sock dog
in the middle of the night,

so, um...

I'm sad, Mrs. Patterson...

and I don't know
how to change it...

and I can't remember
if ever there was

a time when I didn't feel sad.

And... and that's why
I wanted to talk to you

because when I was
a little boy, I mean,

you knew me
better than anyone else
in the whole world.

So, when I was a little boy...

what was I like?

You were a good boy.

You were a careful boy.

Was I sad?

I think maybe you were sad.

I think so too.

I really needed to hear that.

Thank you so much.

Good night.

I put the phone down
and I made a decision.

See, I decided that

I did need to get some help,
and so I did.

I went to see a group.

I went to see a support group.

Um, hello, everyone.



Um, I've resisted doing this.

I'm... British.



I find it really hard
to talk about things,

especially the things that
you're meant to talk about.

I mean, being a grown-up,
being conscious

of the problems in the world,

the complexities
and the tragedies,

it's really hard to feel joy.

Been making a list.

Been making a list of every
thing that's brilliant

about the world, um,
it's... it's a present

for my mum,
but that's a long story, so...

Well, actually,
I brought it with me

so maybe I should
just get it out.

You see, um...

I threw the list away,
but unbeknownst to me,

my partner at the time,
um, she rescued it

and she hid it
and she put it in our garage

underneath a, uh, tablecloth

and then she left a note
for me about where it was

inside the sleeve of...

Well, you don't need to know
the details, but, um...

Pulling off a sheet of wallpaper

in one intact piece.


"Mork & Mindy."


My new sleeveless top.

Old people holding hands.

You know, if you live
a full life and you get

to the end of it
without ever once feeling

crushingly depressed,

then you probably
haven't been paying attention.

I wasn't there the last time.

I was in Australia,
uh, with work

and Dad wasn't around either.

And eventually, a neighbor came

and complained about the fumes

and, um, a fireman
had to come and cut

a hole through the garage door.

Hose pipe through
the passenger side window.

Which surprised me actually
because Mum hated driving.

She always used to complain

about her ankles
on long journeys.

They say it's a very masculine
way to choose to die,

but I don't know
what that means, so...

She didn't leave a note.

There was piece of paper
beside her, but...

she didn't write anything down.

The radio was on.

I drove Dad to the funeral.

He smoked with the window down.

I helped him tie his tie.

And at the ceremony,
meeting Mum's friends

and her colleagues,
I thought about how much

the list had changed who I am.

How it had changed
how I see the world.

31. "Birdsong."

45. Hugging.

341. Alcohol.


Tea and biscuits.

1,092. Conversation.


I mean, the list
hadn't saved her.

It couldn't.


I got a text that day
from Sam. I'd, uh...

I'd like you to read it
for me if you don't mind.

(clears throat)

Um, "I heard about your mum.

"Give me a call anytime.

"I'd love to hear your voice.
Love, Sam.

"PS: I heard that
Beyoncé is related

"to the composer Gustav Mahler.

This should be on the list.
Truly a brilliant thing."

(chuckles) Thank you.

For the next few days,

I would stay with Dad,

and in the daytimes,

um, we would listen to records

or we would go out for walks.

And at night, I started
typing up the list
from the very start.

Number one. Ice cream.

And eventually,
I got to the point

where I'd left off
and I just carried on.


The fact that Beyoncé
is Gustav Mahler's

eighth cousin
four times removed.
That's right.


I finished the list,
I typed it up,

I put it down onto Dad's chair

and I left for London
and he never mentioned it

to me directly,
but a few weeks later,

he called me up
and he said, "Thank you."

Thank you.

And he said, "I love you."

I love you.

And I said...

doesn't suit you, Dad."


Thank you.


The alphabet.


Inappropriate songs played
at emotional moments.

That's right.


Completing a task.


Listening to a record
for the very first time.

Taking the disc out
of the sleeve,

putting it down onto the deck,

hearing the faint hiss

and crackle of the metal point
as it hits the wax...

♪ ♪

sitting back...

listening to the record...

and reading through
the sleeve notes.

♪ Your picture ♪

♪ Is still ♪

♪ On my wall ♪

(cheers and applause)

You are wonderful.
♪ On my wall ♪

Thank you so much.

Thank you so much.

♪ The colors ♪

And you, just amazing.

Oh, you were wonderful.
You're fantastic.

♪ Bright ♪

Mrs. Patterson!

♪ As ever ♪

Thank you.

♪ Red is strong ♪

♪ And blue is pure ♪
Thank you.

Good night.

♪ Some things last a long time ♪

♪ Some things last a long time ♪

♪ Your picture ♪

♪ Is still ♪

♪ On my wall ♪
Favorite brilliant things.

Oh, my gosh...

When people smile.

I think sunlight.

Listening to Charlie Parker.

New York City.

♪ I think ♪
A really good...

meal with a good friend.

Trees. I love trees.
♪ About you ♪

Watching the Boston Red Sox.

♪ Often ♪
And my grandchildren.

They make me really happy.

♪ Often ♪

Woman: I was really...

I was incredibly nervous.

I was incredibly offended
♪ Some things ♪

that I got kicked out
of my chair.
♪ A long time ♪

You didn't defend me. No.

Fame's changed you. (laughs)

♪ ♪