One year on: Remembering John Hughes

On the anniversary of director John Hughes’ untimely death, Carley looks back at his work, and the influence it had on a generation of movie-goers...

John Hughes

Dear John,

We never met in this lifetime. Our paths were never destined to cross. But one day, after I watched one of your movies, you changed my life in a way that can’t be thanked in person or in letter form.

From a young age I had always been interested in films. I very much enjoyed watching films at home or at the cinema, but it never really went further than that. Until, one day, I flicked onto a BBC late night showing of The Breakfast Club. I couldn’t have been any more than eight or nine years old, but I can remember now, to this day, that is was the first film that spoke to me.

The next day after watching it, I went down to the local ex-rental store and bought up, well, I say I, my mum bought a copy of it, as well as Pretty In Pink, Sixteen Candles and Weird Science. I devoured them all in one afternoon and wanted more and the following weekend I went down and got some more, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Some Kind Of Wonderful and I sat and watched and enjoyed.

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Each film was its own little pocket of joy and it was a mixture of the overall story and script that kept me hooked and wanting more.

But what was it about a genre of film that wasn’t really aimed at me, at the time, that made me so obsessed? Well, mostly it was the dialogue that was spoken between the characters in each of the films. It was honest, it didn’t talk down to the viewer and it wasn’t too pretentious. It welcomed you in, it let you be in on the joke rather than an outsider, it made you feel as if you were more than just an observer in the story and it was that attention to detail that kept me enthralled and entertained.

As the years went by and I got older, I found myself turning more into these films than turning away from them, and although my generation had finally found its own voice in the teen market somewhat with Dawson’s Creek and Buffy The Vampire Slayer and such like, it never was as honest or as open as your movies had been.

And who really could hold a torch to some of the characters you created? Ferris Bueller, Duckie Watts and. my all-time favourite, John Bender. Where else in the world would you be able to find such outlandish yet complex characters, that sum up in an couple of hours what it is like to be a teenager?

You just had the gift to understand exactly what teenagers were going though and that understanding transcended the decades. The movies that were made back in the 80s are as relevant today as they were back then.

Aside from the complexities of teenhood, you also had a wicked sense of humour and there were many hours I spent laughing over the next escapade you put The Griswolds through, the antics of the late, great John Candy in Uncle Buck and Planes, Trains And Automobiles and I can’t recall how many times I have watched Home Alone and laughed until tears have streamed from my eyes.

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Now, as a married twenty-eight-year old woman, I look back and see that, from that first viewing of The Breakfast Club, you had a hand (even if it was a small one) in helping to shape the person I am today. After watching that movie and digging out more from your back catalogue, I began to develop and maintain a love for movies that I have never since lost, and although that may or may not have happened naturally, you were the spark that ignited the flame and I will be forever grateful for that fact.

When I heard the news a year ago today that you had died, the sadness I felt stronger than I ever could have anticipated, as not only a legend of the film business had gone, but somebody I could really call a personal hero. 

So, today, Mr. Hughes, I raise a glass to you as the greatest man I never had the chance to meet.

Respectfully yours always,