Adrian Graham

A teenager on a New York train

The Door in the Floor vs The Ice Storm

In The Door in the Floor (2004) an intern works for a charismatic children’s writer whose apparent success hides a traumatic family event, and in The Ice Storm (1997) a family faces up to the consequences of infidelity and sexual experimentation. Both these stories examine family bonds, passive-aggressive behaviour, and dysfunctional relationships. Both stories feature Middle Class families who are distanced from one another by their inability to communicate about their feelings. These unspoken emotions manifest themselves negatively in: frustration, rows, depression, alcohol abuse, and sexual promiscuity. Ted Cole’s serial extra-marital affairs in The Door in the Floor provide comic light relief as well as reveal his inability to come to terms with his loss. Along with writing children’s books, sex is his distraction from reality. Sexual boundaries and taboos are broken, sex between people of different generations, and ‘key parties’ with ‘wife swapping’. Affluence has brought stress and boredom. The traumatic experiences in The Door in the Floor are personal ones, but the dysfunction in The Ice Storm emanates from a wider moral decline. Young adults watch Nixon on TV and put on a Nixon mask, while they play at being adults. The kids are struggling to fathom their roles in this disconnected world, meanwhile the parents are acting like teenagers – fornicating and partying in an echo chamber that massages their vanity, while also affirming their social status. They have so much, but they have given up so much to attain it. The story demands that a human sacrifice must be made before they can reclaim their humanity. Both these films are warnings, but they play the ‘warning story’ with an affection for the characters, turning the narrative into a darkly comic celebration of human resilience in the face of tragedy.

Procrastination tips

  1. Tidy your desk. It’s a given that before you can start any work you really do need to ensure you have a neat desk.
  2. Rearrange that stationary drawer, sharpen any pencils you might own, you know, that kind of thing. If you don’t own any pencils, now’s the time to pop out and buy some. An organised desk makes an organised mind. And, where there’s order, there’s work. But first you have to tidy up, right?
  3. Do that DIY job now! Don’t delay. There’s never a better time to start (and possibly only half finish) that critically important DIY job. Yes, you probably can varnish those oak shelves you installed five years ago, or re-grout the bathroom tiles. That’s weird, is there a crack in the wall? That wasn’t there before, was it? Good thing you spotted it, because it won’t take a moment to whip out the Polyfilla… and while you’re at it, why not repaint the room? What colour though? Yes, that’s a tricky one. You know, you probably should research popular interior decoration trends – colour schemes are important.
  4. Phone family, or a friend. You probably should annoy that sibling and find out what they’re doing now they’re back from holiday. Why not ring up a mate, to find out if they purchased that washing machine, the one they’ve been going on about for a while. You never know what might be happening. It’s good to keep in touch. Look out of the window. That’s what it’s there for. Something inspiring could happen at any moment. What’s that blue van parked there for? Uh-huh, someone’s moving furniture – looks like someone is moving in… or out. I wonder who that might be?
  5. Check your mobile device. If your phone hasn’t beeped for attention in the last five minutes, it’s probably a sign that you missed something important: you’d better check it now. This isn’t about FOMO, it’s simply a matter of good housekeeping, having the curtesy to reply to messages promptly, updating that app you never use, and critical things like that. Hmmm… the phone’s battery is at 96%… maybe you’d better recharge it, just in case? Admit it: you’re hungry. Probably the best thing you can do if you’re vaguely hungry is to check the fridge at least every 10 minutes. Who knows, something could have magically appeared inside since you last looked. I know, it’s unlikely, but it’s not impossible. Google it. It’s a pretty well known thing that if you’re unsure about facts, it’s super important to get them right. Mmmm… how big is the antarctic? And while you’re there, you might as well fact check a few other things. Who won the men’s Wimbledon in 1978? What’s his name…. it’s on the tip of my tongue. Ahh, this is so frustrating! Oh, yes, that’s it… Tennis? Which country invented it?
  6. Social media is not a distraction. You get really important updates that inform and educate you. Ahh, that’s a cute dancing kitten. Yeah, I get a lot of value from social media. Hmmm… that person from university I never got on with has messaged me. I’ll tell them how busy I am this morning.
  7. Beverages are your friend. Hot beverages, tea, coffee, hot chocolate, soup in a cup. Just stop what you’re doing – it can wait twenty minutes, can’t it? – and enjoy that beverage, maybe have another one? Hot outside where you are? Have a cold beverage, a soda, a refreshing juice, or an ice cold beer. Maybe you should sit in the garden with that cold drink, and look at the sky. Hang on. What are you doing in the garden when you could be at your favourite cafe… or in a beer garden? Okay, then? Just this once! Denial always works.
  8. Remember the golden rule of procrastination: always do tomorrow what you can do today. You know it makes sense, because there’s always tomorrow. But, then again, do you really need to do it at all? Hmm… that’s the real question.