Opening Scene For (Unfinished) French-style Movie by Tim Briffa


Man (Robert) sitting in park in front of a band stand, with a notebook and pen, a handful of people are sitting around, pretty (but not perfect) brunette sits down close to him, apparently unaware of his presence. She looks distracted and his going through her bag looking for something, pulling out various items as she goes, before appearing to lose interest and starts looking around her.

The man watches her from the corner of his eye and seeing her with the bag to her side but looking around turns to her.

ROB: You should be careful someone might steal your bag, you should keep an eye on it.

SOPHIE: What are you some kind of thief?

ROB: No I said someone might steal your bag, I didn’t say I was going to.

SOPHIE: You are a thief aren’t you?

ROB: Why would I tell you to watch your bag if I was a thief?

SOPHIE: Just so long as you’re not a thief.

ROB: I’m not a thief okay. (Slightly irritated he goes back to scribbling in his notebook, but appears to be lacking in inspiration. This time it is the girl who is watching him out of the corner of her eye. A minute or so passes.)

SOPHIE: What are you writing?

ROB: Uh? Not much, just notes, stuff.

SOPHIE: You should write a book.

ROB: Why should I write a book? I’ve never written a book in my life.

SOPHIE: I don’t know I just think you should, everyone should write a book.

ROB: I don’t think there’d be much in mine.

SOPHIE: What? (The girl already seems to have lost interest in this topic of conversation.)

ROB: (Getting up.) Well goodbye then, it’s been nice talking to you.

SOPHIE: Where are you going? Can I come?

ROB: What? No I don’t think that would be a good idea. (Girl looks genuinely upset as if personally rejected. Man looks as if he feels guilty for upsetting her.) Sorry, I mean, I don’t think you’d want to come, I’m going to meet my Mother she’s in hospital, she’s not well.

SOPHIE: (Starting to cheer up) Its fine, I like hospitals.

ROB: Yeah, but I can’t just bring a stranger in to meet her, I don’t even know you.

SOPHIE: (Grabs him by the arm.) We can get to know each other on the way, which hospital is it?

ROB: Er…

SOPHIE: We should get her flowers. I think she’d like crysanthemums.




SOPHIE: Hello I’m Sophie.

MOTHER: Oh hello Sophie.

(Man looks like he’s about to try and explain, but before he can say anything Sophie is talking, looking completely relaxed.)

SOPHIE: We brought you some flowers.

MOTHER: (Looking genuinely pleased) Thank you Sophie.

SOPHIE: Bob said you’d like them.

MOTHER: You mean Rob?

SOPHIE: Yes that’s what I said, how are you doing, how are the pains?

MOTHER: (Again looking cheered up by the attention, despite her obvious pain.) Well you know, it comes and goes. (She gives her son a look as if to say ‘you’ve picked a good one here.’) So how long have you and Robert…

ROB: Well actually…

SOPHIE: six months yesterday, which was why he thought we should meet, and also because we’ve got some special news, Robert and I have decided to get married.

ROB: (Looks about to go mad.) …wha??

MOTHER: I don’t believe it, Robert you naughty boy, that’s so typical, not to tell your mother, to keep a secret. (She looks about to cry.) I’m so proud.


V.O. So that’s how we became engaged. It wasn’t for real, I mean it wasn’t meant to be of course.

MOTHER: So did he get down on one knee?

SOPHIE: (Nods) It was very sweet.

MOTHER: Robert you’ve made your mother very proud. Although Melissa won’t be happy.


ROB: Why did you have to tell her that, are you crazy for God’s sake I only just met you.

SOPHIE: I don’t know I couldn’t help it, I just thought it would make her happy, did you see how happy she looked?

ROB: Yes and can you imagine how she’s going to feel when she finds out its all a load of rubbish? How could you do that to the poor woman? That’s my mother. Jesus.

SOPHIE: But you said she was dying, she’ll never know, anyway whose Melissa.

ROB: Oh no one important, just my girlfriend of three years.

SOPHIE: Oh my God why didn’t you say?

ROB: Well to be honest I didn’t think it would be an issue until you told my Mother we’re getting married. Jesus, what if this gets out, I’m dead. Oh my God.

SOPHIE: Really you should have told me before, how was I to know you had a girlfriend?

ROB: Jesus.

SOPHIE: Anyway look I’ve got to go. Look it was nice knowing you, maybe we’ll see each other again some time, down the park perhaps.

ROB: Fuck.

SOPHIE: Look just call your girlfriend and explain.

ROB: Oh right yeah, “hi, Melissa love, I just wanted to let you know that my mother thinks I’m getting married to someone else, but don’t worry its just some girl I met in the park, but don’t let on, its only ‘til she’s dead, you can come to the funeral though if you like.’ (Sarcastically) No I’m sure she’ll be absolutely fine with it.

SOPHIE: You see I told you, all right, see you next week. (She kisses him on the lips then runs off.)


V.O. I didn’t see her in the park the next week, I doubt she even turned up and even if she had, she was the last person I wanted to see. Luckily Melissa didn’t generally come by the hospital anyway, I knew she’d want to see my mother some time before she died and I still hadn’t worked out what I was going to tell her, for now I just figured I’d try not to bring the matter up and hope my Mother had other things to talk about. Unfortunately it seemed to be all she’d been thinking about.

MOTHER: I still can’t believe you had been keeping that girl secret from me, I suppose you must have met her while you were still with Melissa huh? Didn’t want your old Mother to give your game away huh? You naughty thing.

ROB: Well you know how these things are, anyway how have you been, that’s the important thing.

MOTHER: Me, oh don’t worry about me, I’m fine, its you and Sophie that matter. Such a lovely girl, I didn’t realize she’d studied at the Sorbonne. Talented as well as pretty.

ROB: The Sorbonne, she never mentioned the Sorbonne.

MOTHER: Don’t play dumb, you know where she studied or are you trying to keep another secret from me?

ROB: Hang on, when did she tell you about the Sorbonne?

MOTHER: Yesterday, when she came in. (Pointing to the bouquet of lilies.) We had such a lovely chat. She was telling me all about the two of you, I had no idea you could be so romantic.


It turned out she’d come by the hospital twice that week, of course I had to find her now. I tried the band stand. I did four afternoons without seeing her until I realized I probably had more chance of seeing her if I waited outside the hospital.

Shot of Rob standing outside in the rain with a newspaper of his head, when finally he sees Sophie holding more flowers, plus some bananas.

ROB: Jesus its you,

SOPHIE: Oh hello there, have you come to visit your mother as well?

ROB: what the hell are you doing?

SOPHIE: It’s just fruit, they’re good for the immune system.

ROB: Yuh, I mean what are you doing visiting my mother, and telling her even more lies.

SOPHIE: I haven’t told her any lies.

ROB: Oh no what about studying at the Sorbonne.

SOPHIE: But I did study at the Sorbonne.

ROB: (Unsure whether to believe her) What about how romantic I am and all that.

SOPHIE: Oh yeah that, that was a lie, but you know it makes her so happy. She loves you very much you know.

ROB: What’s that got to do with anything? Jesus, what’s your fucking game are you mad, you can’t just barge into someone’s life, start telling their loved ones you’re going to marry them and spinning lies and (he becomes momentarily speechless) you know I think you’re a goddam psycho, that’s what you are. Why don’t you just get out of my life? Seriously fuck off.

SOPHIE: (She looks about to cry, but seems to be trying to hold her tears back.) I was only trying to help. I wasn’t trying to hurt anyone.

ROB: Well then you should be a bit more careful.

SOPHIE: (She hands Rob the bananas, still trying to hold back her emotions.) That’s okay I understand, I shouldn’t have lied, I understand. I always do this, I can’t help myself sometimes, I just act without thinking.

ROB: Yes right.

SOPHIE: Its all my fault.

ROB: I wish I could say it wasn’t.

SOPHIE: Will you tell your mother I’m sorry.

ROB: Yes, no, look I can’t tell her that can I? That’s what I’m saying, that’s what lies get you into. They upset people and frankly that’s not what she needs right now.

SOPHIE: My God I feel so awful. Maybe you could tell her I was killed or something.

ROB: Right, that’s bound to make her feel better.

SOPHIE: Well what are you going to tell her?

ROB: I don’t bloody know do I.

SOPHIE: Maybe you could…oh I don’t know.

ROB: What?

SOPHIE: I don’t know, I’ve caused you enough trouble already.

ROB: Yes exactly…. What is it what were you going to suggest?

SOPHIE: Well nothing much, I was just going to say we can keep pretending we’re going to get married in a few months or so, the doctors are only expecting her to last two or three, you could tell her not to mention anything to Melissa, say you haven’t worked out how to break it to her yet or something.

ROB: Oh my God.


ROB: Yes, yes, okay we’ll do that.

SOPHIE: So I can keep on seeing her?

ROB: Yes. Jesus why do you want to see her so much anyway?

SOPHIE: I don’t know I just like her. She reminds me of my mum a bit.

ROB: But you can only see her once a week okay. I don’t meant you getting me into any more trouble, besides you’re starting to make me look bad.

SOPHIE: (She gives him a hug like a child would hug her Dad.) I promise I won’t tell any more lies, at least no more than I have to.

ROB: Okay, okay. (He responds to the hug rather awkwardly.)

V.O. So it seemed pretty simple, I mean I figured it would only be another seven or eight visits to keep up the pretence, she was usually too week to talk to for long anyway. We usually visited separately, I could tell when she’d been in last by the age of the flowers, which appeared to grow more sumptuous every time. Then one day I was greeted by a shock.


DOCTOR: You know why we’ve called you in?

ROB: Well no not really.

DOCTOR: Oh I see, well we explained it all to your fiancée yesterday, I assumed she would have mentioned it to you.

ROB: Erm, no I’ve er been away on business.

DOCTOR: I see. Well its about your mother, erm this is rather a peculiar situation, its very rare with cases such as hers, and we don’t really understand why, but it appears she has gone into spontaneous remission.

ROB: I’m sorry, I’m not sure…

DOCTOR: It means, she’s got better. It’s very rare with cancers, about 1 in 1000, but sometimes they spontaneously vanish, no one really knows why, there are theories, but its still a big gray area.

V.O. Afterwards I read about spontaneous remissions, there are cases that didn’t appear to have any obvious causes, there are a few in people who’d visited Lourdes, but then some people put that down to the power of positive thought rather than religion itself. I couldn’t help wondering if it was the thought of Sophie and I getting married. It was what she’d always wanted. Plus she and Sophie seemed to be genuinely hitting it off the way she talked about her, it was almost like she’d made a new friend. So of course I was happy, the only problem was the wedding, we’d said we’d booked the church for six months time, figuring it gave us plenty of time for my mother to shuffle off none the wiser. Now of course she was up and well and talking endlessly about the wedding, they were getting ready to let her out of the hospital, and I knew I couldn’t expect her to keep it to herself any longer, which meant that it was matter of time before Melissa found out. The obvious thing, what you are probably expecting and what would make this story nice and simple would be for me to have never really been in love with Melissa, so I dump her, end up falling in love with Sophie and her with me, final scene, we marry, with my Mother and all our friends crying tears of joy, and we all live happy ever after. Yeah? Unfortunately, life isn’t always as simple as the movies. The fact is, despite the impression you may have received, I actually loved Melissa, a lot. And she loved me. A lot. The only reason I’d never proposed to her was that I didn’t have any money and I figured if we were to do it we’d do it in style….