In case you haven’t heard, there is a pandemic. And even if you are lucky enough to be able to stay at home during these challenging times, the isolation can be pretty daunting. So if you’re starting to feel the strain, here are ten movies that will help you through it.
Inside Out (2015)
Comfort is not about forgetting our sadness. It’s about embracing that feeling, knowing that we are not alone in our pain. And Inside Out helps its viewer do just that. In an era in which “good vibes” and “positive thinking” have become a nuisance to our mental health, Pixar delivers a delicate tale with a simple, yet powerful message: it’s ok to not be ok.
We observe as the embodiment of Joy, the emotion we are all programmed to chase at all costs, experiences the importance of Sadness in fulfilling the fundamental human experience: empathy. Sadness succeeds, where Joy results superficial or careless: we need to not only reflect on our feelings, but to accept them as part of who we are.
As I packed my life of the last three years, without being able to say goodbye, not knowing when I could come back to it, I did what any film lover would do: I planned what movie to watch on the plane back. I can assure you that whether you are scared, lonely, or simply need a good cry, Inside Out will accompany you in that journey with heartwarming characters and thoughtful storytelling.
Good Will Hunting (1997)
This film follows Will Hunting, an unrecognised mathematics genius, who as part of a deferred prosecution agreement becomes a client to therapist Sean Maguire. A touching tale of a young man discovering a soul mate who manages to open both his mind and heart.
The iconic “bench scene” was one of the best crafted scenes in film. The scene presents Will Hunting meeting his intellectual match in Sean Maguire. The scene is a moment of realisation for the arrogant prodigy as he realises that reading about living is not living at all. This scene produced one of the best lines of dialogue ever written, “You don’t know about real loss, because that only occurs when you love something more than you love yourself”.
Moreover, it presents the undeniable talent of Robin Williams. Williams won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in the film and much of the dialogue is down to his improvisation. For example, the very last line of the film “Son of a b*tch, he stole my line” was ad-libbed by Williams, yet manages to encapsulate the story brilliantly.
My Neighbour Totoro (1988)
My Neighbour Totoro (1988) is easily one of the sweetest films of all time, and has been a solid favourite of mine since I was a little kid.
It tells the story of sisters Mei and Satsuki, who move to a ramshackle cottage in the Japanese countryside to be closer to the hospital where their mother is being treated. The sisters work through their fears and anxieties with the aid of some friends, who may or may not be imagined, and include the cheekily grinning Catbus, and the loveable Totoro, a gigantic rabbit-like creature.
This is a fun and playful film filled with colour and imagination. But it is also incredibly moving and explores the starkly contrasting joy and sadness of childhood. The animation of this film, as with all Studio Ghibli films, is completely mesmerizing. It has only been more recently that Miyazaki has used computers to help animate his films. They are mostly done in the classic way, one frame drawn at a time. A watercolour look is used for the backgrounds, and characters are created in line with distinctive Japanese anime tradition, with their big circular eyes and ever-changing mouths that can be the size of pea at one moment and the size of a cavern the next. Some of the scenes are so perfectly created that it’s hard to believe they’re not truly real, and Mei and Satsuki are so sweet and genuine that you wish you could have been friends with them when you were that age.
Wild Hogs (2007)
I love staying in my house watching movies. But now that Boris has told me I’m not aloud to leave the house, I suddenly want to buy a motorbike, learn how to ride said motorbike, put motorbike on a ferry to the US and embark on a road trip across the country. Instead of breaking quarantine, I can experience all of that thrill by watching Wild Hogs (2007).
Four actors who are past their prime play four wannabe bikers who are past their prime. They leave their wives and all the stresses of suburban life behind, fix up their dusty bikes and head out on the open road.
This film is unquestionably bad, but I can’t help but love it. The guys get up to the predictable hijinks one would expect in a low brow biker comedy, they are mistaken for a dangerous biker gang, get into a brawl at a chilli festival and are propositioned by a vivacious policeman.
The film could be considered a parody of other far superior and less fun movies. The bikers find themselves protecting a small town from the brutal Del Fuegos gang, drawing a heavy handed parallel with Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. This is the kind of naff feel-good film that is the perfect antidote for quarantine-induced boredom.
Porco Rosso (1992)
Studio Ghibli needs to be arrested. For stealing all our hearts. Time and time again the beautiful animation, music, characters, and story never fail to make us feel happy. And I can’t think of any better time in which we should try for at least some happiness. So why not go for one of the most underrated of all the Ghibli films, Porco Rosso.
It’s basically Casablanca (1942) meets Babe (1995), need I say more? Okay, I probably should say a bit more. Set in the 1930s Italy, the movie follows seaplane pilot Porco Russo, an ace in the sky as he hunts sea pirates for cash, oh and he happens to be a pig. The film is absolutely stunning, as per the norm with Studio Ghibli from Porco’s iconic red plane to the deep blue of the Adriatic Sea so it’s sure to help with any cabin fever you may be feeling. You can’t help but fall in love with the charm of this bizarre little film and all its little details, a brilliant soundtrack, and an epic conclusion.
It’s a great film to start with, as I did, for the uninitiated with the Ghibli films, as while definitely weird it acts mostly as a prep for more fantastical movies they have to offer. And if this is a film that manages to make you smile, even in crazy times like these, then maybe pigs truly can fly…
Acclaimed actress Saoirse Ronan is on home-turf (kind of) in John Crowley’s coming-of-age drama Brooklyn (2015). Adapted from Colm Tóibín’s novel of the same name and set in the 50s, Brooklyn follows Eilis (Ronan), a young Irish girl who must emigrate to Brooklyn for employment after having no luck in Ireland, forcing her to leave her family behind.
Despite acclaimed performances in recent hits such as Lady Bird (2017) and Little Women (2019), in my opinion Ronan’s performance as Eilis is her most endearing and powerful work to date. She begins the film as a timid young girl who must cope with loneliness and trauma, blossoming into an independent woman who has changed more than she realises. Her chemistry with both Cohen and Gleeson makes it that much more gripping for the audience, as you (and Eilis) must decide who is better for her in the long run. Walters’ performance as the feisty boarding house owner Mrs Kehoe is also one of the highlights of the film, stealing every scene she’s in with her temper and quick-witted remarks.
Brooklyn is the perfect film for those self-isolation blues, filled with brilliant performances and a compelling storyline, it is unlikely to leave you disappointed.
Knives Out (2019)
The first article that I wrote for the Courier that was published in print was a Coming Soon! feature that talked about the merits of an upcoming Rian Johnson movie called Knives Out (2019). Knives Out would go on to have mass mainstream appeal, be an excellent film and secure a very sizeable profit for its budget. As a result, my entry in this Top 10 list is as much an “I told you so” than anything else.
If you’ve ever seen The Grand Budapest Hotel and more importantly, you enjoyed it, then you’re in luck. Knives Out radiates the same energy, with its quirky off-beat characters and beautifully intricate – yet homely – production design. The film asks you nicely to grab a blanket and mug of hot chocolate as it takes you on a journey of twists and turns, sprinkled with charm and humour aplenty.
The film is such a crowd pleaser due to its layering of tones and thematic elements. It’s plot and characters provide light and fluffy entertainment, while underneath the plot masquerades a deeper layer of subtext for those that prefer to dissect in the midst of their consumption.
So grab your blanket and hot chocolate, and cosy up to last year’s greatest comfort food offering in the world of cinema.
Sunshine on Leith (2013)
Originally a stage musical, Sunshine on Leith sees Davy (George MacKay) and Ally (Kevin Guthrie) resume their lives back home in Edinburgh, after touring in Afghanistan together. The opening sequence alone is enough to tug at the heartstrings for sure (if you don’t tear-up at Jane Horrocks singing ‘Sunshine on Leith’, you’re a monster) but what self-respecting musical doesn’t do that? And if you loved Rocketman and Bohemian Rhapsody then this is bound to be a good choice, as Dexter Fletcher directs.
Not too long ago, during the midst of all this chaos, Edinburgh residents in Leith sang ‘Sunshine on Leith’ from their flats as a tribute to NHS staff. Music is a pretty powerful thing, especially in times like these – what Fletcher does so brilliantly is to lean into that. You become so attached to the character arcs through music that, if there are any flaws – it’s hard to notice them.
The Proclaimers probably can’t walk 500 miles in one government-approved trip form of exercise – so Sunshine on Leith is the closest we’ll all get. Stay inside, and hopefully soon this will all be ‘Over and Done With’…
Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
Little Miss Sunshine is equal parts charming, funny and sweet. When I first heard of the film, I was under the impression that it was some mediocre crappy family comedy. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I laughed from start to finish. After re-watching it during quarantine, it managed to lift my mood, make me happy and make me forget our current circumstances for a long while.
It’s deceivingly colourful, a lighthearted black comedy that takes an honest approach on how families deal with attempted suicide, drug use and depression. It deals with the dysfunctional nature of families which at this moment as we’re all locked in with our families, we can truly relate to.
I really cannot imagine watching this and not having my heart filled to the brim with happiness and I sincerely recommend it during this hard time as it will make you forget, it will make you smile and it will stick with you. Little Miss Sunshine is a film that never seems to get old despite the number of times you may watch it because it simply is topnotch on every single level.
About Time (2013)
My feelings about Richard Curtis are decidedly mixed. Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994), Notting Hill (1999) and Love Actually (2003) are all completely insufferable, while the likes of The Boat that Rocked (2009), Yesterday (2019), and the sublime Doctor Who episode Vincent and the Doctor (2010) all show a far more agreeable side to his writing.
About Time (2013) is another example of that agreeable side, and ensures that Curtis’ ideas about time travel stirred up by Doctor Who are not left unexplored. While the Doctor may continue to wish for a ginger regeneration, this film sees Domhnall Gleeson give us a glimpse into what a more ordinary, heartfelt iteration of that character might look like.
Both Gleeson’s character and his father, played with joyful wisdom by Bill Nighy, are both able to travel back to previous points in their lives. Nighy introduces this premise early in the film, with it being tested to fix a regrettable New Year’s Eve. Something as relatable as this quickly grounds the mechanic.
Curtis proceeds to use time travel as a laser-focussed instrument for exposing the importance of family, whether it’s yet to be found or there to be treasured. A deeper manifestation of that comes from the idea that we should each make the most of every day in the knowledge that it is the only time it will ever be experienced.
About Time certainly is a bit of a tearjerker for a list containing comforting films. Yet, in this time of crisis, this film’s message about the importance of family, and what you can do and sacrifice for it, is important.
And as we’ve all suddenly got so much more time on our hands, perhaps we shouldn’t be wishing it away just yet. Instead, let’s look to enrich ourselves with all the niceties of life that we never normally have the luxury to indulge in. And yes, by that I mean we should binge many, many films!
P.S. The film is only available on Netflix until 10 April, so best be quick!
Last modified: 29th March 2020