Films to soothe the soul

Recently my best friend of twenty-three years asked me to recommend some films for her to watch. My eyes grew wide in equal measures of possibility and apprehension, but – knowing that my life is currently of very little consequence and that I have time abundance – I cracked my knuckles and sat back.

It would be all too simple to reel off a list of the golden oldies, for a mere ten seconds on the internet and you’ll find yourself with some website barking at you as to why you haven’t seen Citizen Kane yet. Have you been living in a fucking cave? I, however, think we should be forgiven for not always wanting to watch the classics, for these all too often subscribe to some cinematic bucket list of snobbery that ever so slightly bullies you into enjoying them. Sometimes you’re just not in the mood for something that won ten Oscars and details the life of a junkie mass murderer with terminal cancer. And that’s fine.

Instead, I settled on a list of the films that I can always turn to in times of need; the ones that somehow reach out of the screen, give me a gentle pat on the back and simply say, “Ah, you’re alright, pet.” Such an undertaking was also intended to solve the issue faced when people ask me what my favourite film is – a question that crops up a lot, given my academic background. I used to always say The Godfather (Part 2), but I fear that this has now become my safe default rather than my genuine favourite. I suppose nowadays the answer may be more nuanced, which depresses me as I remember how pissed off I used to get when I would ask my parents what their favourite colour was, only to get a dissatisfyingly diplomatic answer that ‘depends what mood I’m in.’ Aaaargh.

Quadriplegic gazillionaire hires streetwise ex-con as his new carer, and the two form an unlikely bond. Watch the trailer here.

Put simply, this film is just really, really, really good. It somehow possesses that magical balance that provokes both roars of laughter and moments of true poignancy. This is achieved mostly by the perfect casting and a sturdy, clever script (which is especially impressive as the humour manages to pervade the subtitles, despite being a French-language film) both of which have helped produce one of those rare, instant classics. You’ll find yourself grinning from ear to ear as soon as the credits roll, basking in its brilliance as the dim cinema lights come up.

Before Sunset / Before Sunrise / Before Midnight
Two strangers meet on a train and decide to disembark and hang out together in Vienna – before growing older, wiser and much more cynical in the sequels that follow. Watch the trailer here.
before sunrise 2

This trilogy takes the romance genre and strips it right back, shedding the many layers of twinkly music and sentimental monologues to reveal something a thousand times truer than the majority of its generic equivalents could ever wish to achieve. Instead we see a world unfold before us that is full of flawed characters, deep-seated insecurities and incessant talking, and to me, this is what romance actually involves, whether we like it or not. Each of the films are essentially three long, drawn-out conversations, meaning that the action unfolds very, very slowly – much like life does.

Read my full review of Before Midnight here.

Almost Famous
Fifteen-year-old aspiring rock journalist takes to the road with an up-and-coming band in this tale of friendship, growing up and, most importantly, music. Watch the trailer here.

“I always tell the girls: ‘never take it seriously.’ If you never take it seriously, you never get hurt; you never get hurt, you always have fun, and if you ever get lonely, just go to the record store and visit your friends.” These are the immortal lines of the fabulous Penny Lane, self-titled ‘band-aid’ (as opposed to groupie) to the semi-fictional ’70s rock band Stillwater, and it is this logic that can single-handedly explain the film’s charm. Essentially, what you’re being told is that life can be shit, and people can be even shitter, but sometimes it’s good to take a step back and tackle things with less of a heavy heart. It also implores us to rely on good music, which is advice that I just cannot find within myself to dismiss as flippant – largely thanks to my father, whose era was also the 1970s and whose love for rock music is perhaps part of the reason why I love this film so much.

Blue Jasmine
Rich-bitch gets thrown from the heights of society and basically goes bat-shit crazy with the transition. Watch the trailer here.
blue jasmine

There are always moments in life when you can practically feel your heart blackening by the second and all you want to do is sink yourself into a triple measure of gin, and it is when these moments strike that you should turn to Blue Jasmine, a film that is unique in that it isn’t for the sad, depressed or brokenhearted, but for the very, very pissed off. I guarantee that you will never be as fucked off as Jasmine, the titular character who has had a bit of a rough time, but as she lounges around swilling her Stolichnaya vodka, it feels as though she’s sticking a finger up to the world around you, with you – and it feels great to have some company, however twisted it may be. The film has some really serious themes, as it explores mental health in a way that more areas of popular culture should – and yet despite its underlying sincerity, I couldn’t help walking out of the cinema with a slightly wicked grin on my face.

Read my full review here.

Away We Go
An unmarried couple search the land to find an appropriate setting to raise their unborn child. Watch the trailer here.

This film features one of cinema’s more likable couples; you find yourself rooting for them as they try and make sense of the confusing world around them  because together they possess a bearable, watchable and believable level of chemistry. Like the romance itself, the film chugs along slowly yet gracefully – a pace that is matched by a beautiful soundtrack using songs mainly by the bewitching Alexi Murdoch. In a nutshell, Away We Go is a modest little film, and in retaining such simplicity it becomes a perfect ailment for when life gets too complicated.

The Darjeeling Limited
After the death of their father, three brothers hitch a ride on The Darjeeling Limited to reconnect with each other whilst travelling across India. Watch the full trailer here.
darjeeling limited

Much like many of Wes Anderson’s films, this film is visually stunning, and in all its aesthetic glory it creates an avenue for some fantastic, sepia-toned escapism. But aside from all of the pretty colours and exotic landscapes, the film also explores more difficult concepts such as depression, death and estrangement without getting too heavy-handed or sombre – which is a feat in itself. In fact, as the brothers traverse the glorious Indian landscape, and the broken family begins to repair itself without its patriarch, you may even feel uplifted.  


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