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A belated shout-out to a brief sequence in the movie Children of Men that always makes me smile. If you’ve seen the movie, I’m referring to the improbable romantic moment in the fleeing car where Julianne Moore and Clive Owen somehow manage to blow a ping pong ball back and forth between their mouths, through the air between the front and back seats.

While the film is rightfully famous for its stunning set pieces, this little bit of business is one of those inspired inventions where you go, Where the hell did they get that from? (The other characters in the car look on somewhere between aghast and amused at this hilarious left-field display.) It’s a brilliant bit of imaginative problem-solving, a vivid and unexpected means of conveying instantly an infinitude of vital emotional information that the movie doesn’t have time to slow down and show us any other way.

Clive Owen and Julianne Moore play Theo and Julian, estranged lovers who in-spite-of-or-is-it-really-because-of (that really ought to be one word) their estrangement still trust each other. Plot-wise, Julianne Moore’s character only exists to hand off the MacGuffin and then (spoiler alert) die tragically in an ambush, so she and Clive Owen have only two or three short scenes together. Given the structural parameters of the movie, there’s no time to develop their relationship properly, and their back story is officially given to us later on in the time-honored way, through expository dialogue. (Michael Caine, playing an old friend, tells Theo and Julian’s story to another character.)

But because of the ping pong ball sequence, we are given a fleeting glimpse of magic between them. What they have lost is shown rather than told. The rest of the movie gains enormous weight from this small marvel of ingenuity. Not only do Theo and Julian still trust each other, but, as it turns out, these two irredeemably dour people can still make each other laugh as well.

Till The Next Goodbye (Jagger/Richards)

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Listen to Till the Next Goodbye

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