You Can’t Handle the Truth

I appreciate all who may read this, and I hope you like it.
So, here is a short film screenplay, a proposal I referred to in previous blog. It has changed a wee bit since then. It’s dark, heavy and violent. Great to finish off a lovely day or maybe start a bright sunny morning. This blogging format does not allow it to be reproduced in screenplay format, unfortunately

HAPPY BIRTHDAY

FADE IN:

EXT./FLASHBACK. -1997- BACK ALLEY – GLASGOW CITY – RAINING – NIGHT

TAM (38), medium, unkempt, unshaven, dishevelled, is on the ground in an alleyway, his back is propped up against a building. He has on a tatty leather jacket, black shirt, black jeans and shoes and is half-drunk, half-asleep. An almost empty bottle of cheap wine is protruding from under his side.

Two neds, junkies, POS (sixteen) and KIPSO (seventeen) come into the alley, they spot Tam and head towards him.

POS

Let’s roll that cunt?

KIPSO

He’s a Jakey, he’ll have fuck all.

POS

He’s no a Jakey, he’s got a watch on.

Pos and Kipso are standing over Tam. Pos boots Tam a THUD against his thigh. Tam comes around.

KIPSO

Haw cunt, give us yer watch.

JEAN (35) brunette, an attractive Glasgow woman, dressed in red jacket, black skirt, and heels, is watching the situation, sheltering in a darkened recess.

Tam looks at the watch on his wrist, curiously, puzzled. He feels the watch wristband briefly and looks up at the two standing over him.

TAM

I’d back off, if I was you, laddie.

KIPSO

Give us yer watch then an we’ll no cut ye.

Tam stands up.

TAM

OK, Have it your way.

Tam is on his feet, his shaking hand holding the wine bottle.

TAM (CONT’D)

Can I just swallow the dregs of this?

Pos now has a knife in his hand.

POS

Aye, shift it, then give us that fuckin watch, ya auld dick.

Tam uncorks the bottle, drops the cork and grasping the top of the bottle, by its neck, smashes it down on Pos’s head. Pos falls to the ground, releasing the knife. Tam retrieves the knife quickly and plunges it into Kipso’s chest, twice. Pos comes around and tries to get up. Tam falls onto him, his knees on Pos’s chest, then frenziedly stabs Pos several times. Tam comes off Pos onto his own knees on to the ground and then stands over the bodies of Pos and Kipso. He is panting, sweating, looking around. On a second glance he sees a silhouette in a dark recess of the building.

JEAN (O.S.)

Tam, Tam, over here.

Tam puzzled, stares harder at the source of the voice.

JEAN (CONT’D)

Come, quickly, come to me, over here.

BLACK BRICK MICK (62), a grubby man, with coal smudged, grey tweed trousers, jacket and flat cap, 1930’s style,and MAMMY BETH (43), a plump negress, white smock and black crochet cardigan, come into the alleyway.

Tam at first hesitant, then hurriedly goes to Jean. Jean has her hand out to lead him down the stairs.

BLACK BRICK MICK

Look, Mammy Beth, there they are.

Tam turns to Black Brick Mick and Mammy Beth

MAMMY BETH

Right. Hurry. There’s not much time.

JEAN

This way. Come… Quickly.

Tam follows Jean down into the darkness of the unlit stairwell.

FADE OUT. FADE IN:

INT./ENTRANCE – BARN entrance way – STAFFIN – ISLE OF SKYE – DARKNESS

Jean (35) is leading Tam (50) through the dark entrance of the barn.

JEAN (CONT’D)

This way. Now, keep your eyes closed.

INT./BARN – STAFFIN – ISLE OF SKYE- NIGHT

Jean and Tam come into a dark barn, the lights come on and we see a small gathering of people. They sing.

THE CROWD

Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday Dear Tam, Happy Birthday to you.

TAM

Oh my God, This is wonderful, Thank you so much

Tam stands with Jean, proud, the singing stops.

The DIAMOND TWINS, (35) blonde, bob-haired female twins, wearing pink PVC mini skirts and white PVC knee-length boots along with PRAYING JACK (73), black smock and white dog collar and Beretta, pass round drinks.

DIAMOND TWINS

Raspberry leaf and Tansy today folks.

PRAYING JACK

Only the best for Birthday boy, our Tam.

Black Brick Mick (62) beckons to the assembled guests for quiet.

BLACK BRICK MICK

Ladies and Gentlemen, before you present Tam with his gifts, let us propose a toast on this, his 50th and final birthday, and his 13th year, to this very day, that he took his last drop.

The crowd raise their glasses.

THE CROWD

To Tam.

Tam mouths the word ‘Final’ to Jean. He shrugs his shoulders. Jean smiles. Standing proud again, his friends line up, to wish him the best. Black Brick Mick is the first to approach.

TAM

Black Brick Mick, my dear friend

Tam moves, arms open to hug Black Brick Mick.

BLACK BRICK MICK

You’ll get covered in coal, mind.

TAM

Your fine, man, don’t worry about that.

They hug.

TAM (CONT’D)

It has just been great to know you

They unclasp. Tam dusts off his clothing

BLACK BRICK MICK

Yes, likewise, but that’s over now and I thank you for it.

Tam is stooped, dusting off his trousers.

TAM

What.. What’s over

Black Brick Mick moves away, then takes a coal smudged folded paper from his inside pocket and unfolds it. He reads from it and announces.

BLACK BRICK MICK

Ladies and Gentlemen, Order please

The chatter ceases.

BLACK BRICK MICK

First up this evening, Tam, your loyal nurse for the last thirteen years, Mammy Beth.

Mammy Beth (43) comes forward. She hands Tam an ornamental small black elephant. It has a broken tusk.

MAMMY BETH

Tam, Praise be, what a great day this is. We are all so happy about it. Now, don’t you be fretting, ‘t all be over soon.

TAM

What, no, I’m happy Mammy, really, I am.

Tam hands Jean the ornament.

MAMMY BETH

Of course you are.

Beat

MAMMY BETH (CONT’D)

We all are

BLACK BRICK MICK

And now Tam, the man responsible for your perfect smile, the Master Dentist himself.. Woodcutter Willie

WOODCUTTER WILLIE (56), wearing white overalls, a deep black weightlifters belt and cowboy boots approaches Tam. He produces a Jew’s harp and plays Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star on it. He hands the harp, dripping with saliva to Tam.

WOODCUTTER WILLIE

No pain, no gain, Thomas. You know the score.

TAM

Always.

WOODCUTTER WILLIE

Refrain, abstain, stay sane, Thomas.

TAM

Yeah…sure….What?

WOODCUTTER WILLIE

No pain, no gain, Thomas.

Tam nods in agreement, but looks at Jean for assurance. She smiles to him.

Beat.

BLACK BRICK MICK

Now Tam. Who showed you the light? Who showed you the way?

TAM

May?, Blind May?

BLIND MAY (56) stout, muscular,with dark glasses and wearing motorbike leathers. She is led forward by Praying Jack, feeling her way, arm outstretched, holding, in one hand a burnt-black link sausage, and in the other she is tapping with her stick. She hands the sausage to Tam. Tam looks at the sausage, bemused, and bites the top off it.

BLIND MAY

Well done, you are an inspiration my dear boy, but, don’t worry, soon you won’t be afraid of the dark anymore.

Beat.

BLACK BRICK MICK

Finally, Tam, a man who has never been off his knees for you and every one here. Your dedicated spiritual guru, Praying Jack.

Praying Jack (36) kneels before Tam and takes off his biretta and wipes Tam’s shoes with it.

PRAYING JACK

Shiny shoes. Tam, always have shiny shoes.

Tam nervously smiles and attempts a more hearty laugh, but fails. A table is brought into view, carried by the Diamond Twins, it has a birthday cake on it.

THE CROWD

Cut the Cake. Cut the cake

(clap, clap, clap).

Jean has her hand out to lead Tam over to the cake.

JEAN

Quickly over here.

Praying Jack hands Jean a knife. Jean holds the knife in one hand and with the other beckons Tam to come

JEAN (CONT’D)

This way. Quickly.

Tam is panting, sweating, looking around.

FADE OUT FADE IN

EXT./FLASHBACK. BACK ALLEY – GLASGOW CITY – RAINING – NIGHT

Tam follows Jean down into the dark stairwell. A door opens. They go through.

INT./FLASHBACK. BADLY LIT CORRIDOR.

Jean leads Tam by the hand. They pass through another door.

JEAN

This way. Quickly.

INT./FLASHBACK. FURNISHED CANDLELIT CELLAR

The Diamond Twins, Praying Jack, Woodcutter Willie are sitting together on a bench, and Blind May is sitting on a chair.

TAM

What is happening here? Who are these people?

Beat

JEAN

Those boy’s out there.

Beat

TAM

I warned them.

Beat

WOODCUTTER WILLIE

Fancy a wee dram, Thomas?

Beat

DIAMOND TWINS

A curer, a hair of the dog, maybe?

Beat

TAM

Yes, give me a fucking drink.

Beat

JEAN

…Or would you like those boys to live?

Beat

TAM

What..

Beat

JEAN

They can live, if you say so Tam.

Beat

TAM

What the fuck are you on about, they’re dead. Dead meat.

Beat

WOODCUTTER WILLIE

That’s right Thomas, no pain no gain.

Beat

TAM

Give me a drink, you bastards.

Beat

BLIND MAY

He should do it, now.

Beat

PRAYING JACK

He will, won’t you Tam?

Beat

JEAN

My darling, let them live…

Beat

JEAN (CONT’D)

…just do it.

Beat

PRAYING JACK

Do it Tam.

There is an inkpot filled with blood-red ink. Jean dips a quilled pen into the pot.

Beat

BLIND MAY

He has to. Now.

Beat

WOODCUTTER WILLIE

No pain no gain Thomas.

Beat

Jean passes the quill to Tam. Tam reaches out to take it.

Beat

Beat

FADE OUT FADE IN

INT./ BARN – STAFFIN- ISLE OF SKYE – NIGHT

Tam, bewildered, takes the knife from Jean.

THE CROWD

Tam, cut the cake. Tam. Cut the cake.

Tam cuts into the thick icing of the cake. Thick red blood and animal offal spill out of the cake. The guests applaud. A camera flashes. Tam adopts a fighting stance.

TAM

I need a fucking drink, ya bastards, get me a fucking drink

He is gesturing to all to come at him with one hand and holding the knife outstretched in the other.

TAM (CONT’D)

Get me a fucking drink, or I will have you, any one of you.

From behind the group, Kipso and Pos emerge. Kipso has a half bottle of cheap wine.

KIPSO

Happy Birthday.

Pos applauds

POS

All the best.

Tam is crouched, sweating, slevering

TAM

Give it to me, you fuckers, give me that wine, or I will have you.

JEAN

Pos, Kipso, Stop that now. Show some dignity. Give me the knife.

Tam looks at her. He looks at her and falls onto his knees. He stretches out to hand her the knife. Jean takes it and grasps his arm. She slips a watch over his hand onto his wrist.

Tam stares at the watch, then Jean, then the guests, then the half bottle of cheap wine.

JEAN

Happy Birthday.

Tam grasps the wine from Kipso, he glugs at it desperately. He is agitated,and then calms.

TAM

The watch. It was you.

Pos takes the knife from Jean and plunges it into Tam’s heart. Tam smiles at Jean and collapses onto the ground. She bends down and she kisses him.

JEAN

Goodbye Tam

POS

Cunt.

KIPSO

Prick.

A camera flashes.

EXT./FLASHBACK. BACK ALLEY – GLASGOW CITY – RAINING – NIGHT

A camera flashes. Tam is lying on the ground. We see an ambulance and police cars in the background, blue lights flashing. More flashes come from the camera of a police photographer as he takes a close up of Tam’s wrist. We see Tam has no watch. A small crowd stands behind police cordon. In the crowd stand Black Brick Mick, Mammy Beth, Praying Jack, The Diamond Twins, Blind May, Woodcutter Willie and Jean. Jean takes her turn to drink from the bottle of cheap wine that is being passed around.

A camera flashes.

FADE OUT

THE END

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9 thoughts on “You Can’t Handle the Truth

  1. I’ve read this a couple of times John as it is a screenplay and not prose or a poem where I am more confident. It has changed quite a bit from the original and the characters are all individual and strong. Also it is dark and atmospheric, quite scary and not the kind of thing I would choose to go and watch, although I can appreciate it’s truth. I need to print it off to absorb it properly. I admire your ability though for producing these creations as they are really lifelike and I think the fade outs and lead ins fit beautifully but will definitely get back to you with more useful feedback. I’ll leave it a day or two – It has dreamlike qualities. Talk to you later. Enjoy York!

  2. Thanks Kay, I truly welcome the feedback. The question is What the f*** is it about?
    It is not meant to be clear cut but it certainly is supposed to be dark, atmospheric and disturbing. What is it about though?? x

  3. Hiya John -Kim here. It is the first time I’ve read a screenplay kind of a format – my first thoughts ar that it is not a stone’s throw away from a stageplay and so easy enough to take in. I am only going to give my own response here – which is my own personal reaction and could be – likely will be different to the next person’s response. But hey you want to hear responses so here goes – may be way off – may miss something key.

    I really like this theme – seems to be the notion of some kind of spiritual salvation – but I am left with so many more questions than answers…which isn’t necessarily a bad thing with a film. How did the man live his life? Was this a final act of absolute selflessness after a life of selfishness? Who were the group to him during his life if anything? Were they his conscience? I am left wanting to know more about the characters in the group and what each of them symbolise (if anything). It breaks from the reality with the incident to the surreal scenes (his subconscious self?) with the group and I like that but I am wondring about the group and their relationship to him in his reality. I love how you nickname the group – reminds me a lot of Anderston and how each character had a nickname ‘ like ‘Washing machine Joe’ who fixed washing machines, or ‘wobbly Wulllie’ or Rab ‘halfdoghalfman’, etc. I won’t go on. Each of these was such a rich character – Your nicknames hint at the richness of the characters and I want to hear more about them.

    So I may be way off the mark with my interpretations – but anyway, I really like the theme and the beginnings of the characters around the central character – but I want to know if they are a part of his history or facets of his own self? It’d be great to see it realised on film!

  4. Me again:D… So I’ve read again and am still thinking about those characters and who they are to him. There are hints at his link to them from the past and s I’m wondering if he’s done them wrong in some way – But it seems like they’ve come back to claim him somehow? Got an Edgar Allan Poe kind of a thing going on – ghostly – which I like. The alcohol is a big part of it – overcoming an evil ? (I dunno) – But I’m not getting how big of a part it plays? The more I think about the story the more I’m reading into it – maybe a way off on a tangent (it has been known)!

  5. Kim,
    As I said previously , your feedback is really interesting. I really like how your seeing it and the questions it raises for you. How you see, it is near the mark, the ambiguiety, being deliberate, but reflecting the psychosis of a alcohol crazed mind in the throes of dying a drunken death The final scene is reality, as are the opening scenes. but I have not signposted where it crosses from reality to let’s say supernatural or Tams conscience, whatever..
    I wouldn’t want it to be totally unfathomable but the all the characters live in an unfathomable world. They are real people, to Tam, a bunch of fellow street winos, but who occupy an unreal world. but a violent uncompromising one. They can suffer violence and die, simply put. Fears, Hope and Desire, wish fulfillment, all in a street drunk’s dying minutes or hours?

    Spiritual Salvation- Yes ,Part of his history -Yes , Facets of his own self – Yes

    Don’t know if the above informs any. I like it raises questions that it has raised for you, but it is understood…. mostly.

    Thanks for taking the time to engage Kim. Excellent.

  6. Hi John, I took the print-out with me, and read it another couple of times.

    I’ve never read a screenplay before so I don’t know how much detail there is meant to be. I’m assuming it’s like reading a stage play, sort of.

    Have you ever seen the film “November” with Courtney Cox? (If not, when you all come to visit for my fantasy Scotland-Maine gathering, I’ll add that to the list of films-you-can’t-get-in-the-UK.) Anyway, that was the first thing popped into my head after I read yours the first time. Both have a dream/nightmare/altered-reality quality, and beg to be deciphered. (There were more than a few WTFs uttered.)

    I have done a lot of dreamwork, so I looked at it like analyzing dream images. This came out of your creative center so likely has quite a bit in common with dreams. These are your symbols, though, not mine, so I can only say, “From my point of view…”

    From my point of view, it seems to be Tam’s dying thoughts. Instead of the proverbial life passing before your eyes, it’s a dreamlike what if….peopled with those he knows, each offering him symbols that have meaning for him or them. He’s aged in the reverie, but Jean has not. This seems to me to be the clue that he’s seeing what might have been if he’d stopped drinking. She had the watch, so she had control of (the) time?

    The images have so many possible meanings that I think each person would see the symbolism differently. I think there may have been a time when Tam gave up drinking, but fell off the wagon, and all that was good and clean, symbolized by the setting of Skye, was not to be once the used the bottle to dull his fear.

    Am I even close?

  7. I have never seen ‘November’ Michelle, but want to now.

    I really like your feedback and chuffed you have taken the time to put it on here and you are very close.

    It is Tam’s dying thoughts and a what if thinking is going on.
    The aging of him and not of Jean is the clue.

    I actually discussed it further with Brian of Screen Academy last night and, like yourself and Kim, previously he gets the story, but it is not clear what it is about exactly and advised to include one or two more clues, without losing the ‘trick’ so to speak.
    I would not wish it to be like a test for the audience to understand, but, I am a decipherer of movies, and like to participate in it.

    I have until Friday to re-draft this for submission, and it will be story of Tam being attacked by Pos and Kipso, and he dies as a result of that attack, but in his drink crazed mind his hopes, fears and desires are played out. There is much symbolism, which is for the audience to play with really.
    Skye does represent cleanliness and goodness and I like the point you make about the watch, that is maybe my subconcious thinking , which you have shed some light on, if you know what I mean.

    I will be making some inclusions to make it clearer, I kind of know what they are, and will put it on here and hopefully get more feedback, thanks again Michelle

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