Stories are a part of who we are. In day 16 of the challenge, our writers explore their love for movies that are personal to them.
Harry Brown (2009)
So I am about 11 and my half deaf Grandad has just got this film on DVD, he’s cranked the volume to a deafening boom, and has no idea that it is in no way suitable for those under the age of 18. I’m so excited; not only does this 18 rated film feel like a huge rebellion but the film also looks awesome. It’s got gun fights and a man with nothing to lose seeking revenge and Grandad is totally unfazed by it all but for me by the end I’m gazing at Michael Caine like he’s a superhero. Which of course to me after this film he was. I loved the film in its entirety and while I would never l my kids touch it with a barge pole, me and my Grandad had shared a film we both loved. It left us on an adrenaline fuelled high and at that age I was still learning what I liked about cinema, and this was definitely something I liked. Not only that but the whole experience taught me about cinema bringing people together through storytelling, old or young; this it turns out is what I really love about cinema.
The NeverEnding Story (1984)
This film is an ode to storytelling. From the religious attention with which Bastian sets up his reading nook at the beginning, to the way fantasy spills into the real world, The NeverEnding Story never misses a chance to remind us of the necessity of stories. Filled with endless charm and wild imagination, this film was and remains a favourite of mine.
What I admire most about the movie (and the book), is its ability to explore abstract concepts in ways it resonates with a child. Depression might have been an obscure term to me at age 6, but I understood Artax being dragged down in the Swap of Sadness. It does not feel like a movie that talks down to kids. It was frightening and thoughtful, making the satisfying finale all the more meaningful.
This film is an anthem against apathy. The antagonist of the story, the Nothing, is not just some bad guy who vows to kill you: it is a void who lurches, threatening the existence of everything. In this, the importance of stories is outlined: they get us to care about characters, places and worlds we’ve never seen, while becoming a part of who we are. Because of the book, Bastian, the protagonist, confronts his most profound pain: the loss of his mother.
The film can also become quite meta, with the viewer being so involved as to become an essential part of it. When talking to Atreyu about Bastian, the Empress says: “Just as he’s sharing all your adventures, others are sharing his”. With this, the viewer is recognized as an active character: after all, without an audience, meaningful stories lose a purpose.
The Edge of Seventeen (2016)
There’s a few of my favourite movies that I consider personal to me. I could have also written this about The Skeleton Twins (2014), but it came down to the little details. I find Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld), the main character from The Edge of Seventeen, to be painfully relatable. I’ve watched so many coming of age films over the years, but one has never hit me as hard as this one did.
It follows Nadine as she comes to terms with her best friend (and only friend) dating her older brother, who she doesn’t really get on with. She deals with loneliness and low self esteem with sarcastic wit. Stuck without anyone to talk to, Nadine turns to her history teacher (Woody Harrelson), who matches her cynicism perfectly. Their scenes together are hilarious and heartwarming. The Edge of Seventeen captures a teenage experience that isn’t melodramatic or romanticised, which made it easier to relate to. It’s uniquely authentic, which is hard to find in coming of age movies. With the Hughes-like storytelling, I know this is one we’re going to watch for many years to come. It almost makes me miss being that age, but mostly it makes me grateful that it’s far behind me.
Funny Girl (1968)
Funny Girl is definitely up there with my top 10 favourite movies. From the incredible soundtrack to Fanny Brice’s charisma and the charming Nick Arnstein, William Wyler’s adaption of the stage musical is memorable and uplifting.
This film is personal to me as it takes me straight back to my childhood every time I watch it. This was one of the first musicals I watched, as I was sick at home and my grandma had put it on to cheer me up. Then I became obsessed with the musical, watching it most weekends – I even ruined the VHS because I watched it so much (I had to get the DVD after that haha!). Then whenever I was ill as a child (which was a lot) this was the film I’d always ask to be put on.
This film sparked my love for musicals and ever since watching it for the very first time I’ve wanted to see the live Broadway production of Funny Girl. I’ve got the Vinyl soundtrack, along with another popular musical soundtrack Hello Dolly! and ‘Don’t Rain On My Parade’ was the first song I ever bought off iTunes when I got my first iPod.
Starring Barbra Streisand and Omar Sharif, the musical-comedy-drama follows Fanny Brice, a comedian, and entertainer in the early 1900s. The film starts in the Jewish slums of New York and follows her rise to fame as a Ziegfeld girl in the Ziegfeld Follies, then her growing fame, and her personal life, including her marriage and family life with Nick Arnstein.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)
The list of films that are personal to me aren’t that very long and while I was going to choose Love, Simon (2018), I remembered that on first initial reading of the book and then my first time watching Perks of Being a Wallflower, I’ve never found a film that is so relatable as Perks is.
This film was the first time I ever saw someone that felt like me, and Charlie’s experiences helped me get through my own experiences so much so that as his traumas healed and everything became okay, I started to believe that I was okay too and I could get through the hard times as Charlie does. Charlie is a character who is shy, terribly introverted, who has reserved himself to drown in a traumatic past unable to let go of it and he thinks excessively before he speaks or answers. He analyses everything. He never takes centre stage – he is ALWAYS the side show. He is afraid of the future, counting the days he has to be alone. For his whole life, he made others happy, never once tried to make himself experience true happiness. Charlie’s experiences make this film so endearing and relatable. Everything said in this film feels necessary and has an important role to play for every viewer – no matter what character you relate to.
But what really stands out in this movie and makes it even more personal than it already is is that all the stories in the film tell the truth of accepting the love we think we deserve. But when we realise we deserve more, make a try for it and eventually, if fate and chance favour us in achieving it, then the happiness we find will be infinite. And I think this is a lesson I’ve learnt over my years as a teenager and so will so many others. This is an incredibly sweet, life affirming, hopeful film about love and life not getting better and more youthful than it currently is. And we should all watch this film and take that as its lasting message – live life to infinity and beyond.
Lilo & Stitch (2002)
Lilo and Stitch is particularly personal to me because it reminds me of childhood, and my own family. This was a film that my family used to watch and bond over, and I used to watch the Lilo and Stitch TV show, which has somehow made its way on to Disney+ and sent me through a wave of nostalgia. It also makes me think of my grandma because I remember we gifted her a giant stitch soft toy (not sure why?) and she still has it in her spare bedroom to this day. A film about family connects my own together.
I have so many odd sentimental memories with this film, but I distinctly remember that I didn’t go to my year 11 prom, instead opting to download Sims 4, watch Lilo and Stitch and eat cheesecake. Honestly, no regrets. However, I think the most personal to me is Lilo herself. I’m not going to go all ~sad girl~ but I think it’s fair to say that as a kid I didn’t really have any friends, or at least any healthy friendships. So in that sense, I greatly emphasise with Lilo as the weird girl who wants her “friends” to be punished via spoon voodoo dolls. Thankfully I’m in a much better place now, but for most of my life, I was a bit of a loner who people avoided or made fun of. I like to think if Lilo was real we’d have been friends because of her love of animals, and especially because her music taste is great. Elvis Presley on repeat? Sign me up.
One of the key themes of Lilo and Stitch is family, and I’ve always been lucky to be close with mine. My family isn’t as small as Lilo’s but mine is pretty small outside of my immediate family, and we aren’t super close to most of them. So when Stitch at the end says “It’s little and broken, but still good. Yeah, still good” that just sends me into a flood of tears because I am incredibly grateful to be close to the family members that mean the most to me.
Fair to say I have quite a lot of personal connection to this film, and it is one of the best Disney films out there. It deals with a lot of sensitive issues with the right amount of seriousness and lighthearted humour, and I love it so much.
The Matrix (1999)
A lot of my somewhat questionable film taste comes from my Dad. The majority of my younger years were spent watching films with him. He introduced me to ‘Star Wars’, ‘Lord of the Rings’, ‘Terminator’ and so much more and is almost certainly the catalyst behind my unhealthy obsession with film. One Christmas I was tearing furiously through presents like many pre-pubescent kids and discovered my dad had got me a trilogy box set of ‘The Matrix’ films. This was the time when ‘Star Wars’, Ben 10, and Lego were my life so this weird leather-clad DVD set didn’t look very appealing. So as the ungrateful child I was I threw it on a shelf and forgot about it.
After a while, I decided to go back and watch it. And I loved it. The action. The setting. The concept. The Style. Keanu Reeves. It quickly became one of my favourite films and still is. And it’s all thanks to my Dad. He always knows what films I’d be into and if he hadn’t bought me the box set chances are it would have been many more years before I got around to watching it. It also shows that I should trust any and all film recommendations he gives me.
Brooklyn is a film that I will rave about to anyone who will listen. After me and my mam watched it for the first time not long after it was released, we immediately fell in love with everything about it. We loved it so much that we watched it again the next night, knowing we’d found something special. Being bookworms, we ran out to buy the book that it’s based on only to devour that in a few days. This is my go-to film, whenever I’m feeling happy, sad, or I’m just too lazy to discover something new, I always turn to Brooklyn.
For those of you who are unfortunate enough not to have had this grace your screen, Brooklyn follows Eilis (Saoirse Ronan), a young Irish girl who must emigrate to New York to find employment. Living in an Irish boarding house led by the feisty Mrs Kehoe (Julie Walters), Eilis’ homesickness begins to take it’s toll just as she meets and falls in love with Tony (Emory Cohen), an Italian-American guy who brings her out of her shell. When a tragedy calls her back home, Eilis is forced to choose between the two worlds when she connects with Jim (Domhnall Gleeson).
I have made family and friends watch this film, hoping they’ll have the same reaction me and my mam had the first time we watched it. They always enjoy it and say it’s good, but they never seem to be as blown away as I am, and don’t understand why I love it that much. I don’t even know myself to be honest. Although I knew Ronan was a talented actress, having seen her in films like Atonement and The Lovely Bones, it was her performance as Eilis that moved me the most and cemented her as one of my favourite actresses. Each time I watch Brooklyn I notice something new, which is maybe where the magic lies. Or it may just be that I associate this film with my mam and I, bonding over our shared love of films and this one in particular.
Stand By Me (1986)
“I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was 12. Jesus, does anyone?”
At age 15 I would watch Stand by Me on repeat. The film brought me much comfort as it reflected the turbulent age I found myself in: an overwhelming junction in-between childhood and adulthood. Set in 1959 Castle Rock, Oregon, the world of Gordie (Wil Wheaton), Chris (River Phoenix), Teddy (Corey Feldman) and Vern (Jerry O’Connell) is far away from my own on the surface. The year and location are not important to the film’s key essence however, but at its heart is the universal experience of losing your innocence and gaining insight into the darkness of the adult world, which the film so poignantly captures. Stand by Me is personal to me because I so clearly remember how I resonated with the boys and their keen longing to be older than they were, while simultaneously understanding their desire to delight in the freedom and lack of responsibility entwined with youth.
After the boys hear that the body of a missing boy can be found somewhere around town, they set off following the railway tracks to find it, believing they will be local heroes if they discover it. Along their journey, the film explores the pain the boys have endured and carry with them, their curious nature and ultimately their robust camaraderie. All four characters feel authentic and honest and go on living in your head long after the credits roll.
While our summers aren’t endless anymore and we don’t have the same adventures that we had when we were 12, the impact of childhood friendships stay with us into deep into adulthood, moulding us into the people we become. It is true that these relationships are incredibly formative, but Stand by Me underlines that they are also temporary; friendships fade away, just as summers you once view as endless do too.
The film strongly brings Mary Schmich’s statement to my mind, popularised by Baz Luhrmann’s spoken word song ‘Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)’: “The older you get, the more you need to people you knew when you were young.”
Lady Bird (2017)
Oh, sorry, what’s that? Me writing about Greta Gerwig’s 2017 Oscar-nominated (and quite frankly, Oscar-snubbed) film starring Saoirse Ronan and Timothée Chalamet again? Oh yes. Yes I am.
I actually don’t know how many times I’ve seen this film now. They’ve all blurred into one… Well, all except the first time I saw it in the cinema. I was so so excited, going to watch it just after I’d turned 17 – the age Lady Bird is in the film. I’d listened to countless interviews with Greta, watched the trailer obsessively and cried my heart out when the film was over. But back then, I didn’t really know how personal the film would become to me.
Ironically, I went to see it with a guy who ended up being a bit of a Kyle (a Lady Bird synonym for ‘high quality arsehole’), so that memory is slightly spoiled. I ended up learning to drive, passing a week before I left for university, giving me time to drive around an island I’ve known all my life, feeling like Lady Bird driving around Sacramento. I’d eventually leave one of my best friends from childhood, like Julie and Christine parting ways to go to college. And yes, during freshers I would tell people I was from somewhere near London (or as Lady Bird puts it, San Fransisco), because I realised not everyone knew where the Isle of Wight was… and it’s pretty hard to pull out a map in the middle of a club to show them.
Anyway. This list could go on and on and on, but I’m probably gonna cut and dye my hair a Lady Bird pink when we’re all out of lockdown instead. Anyone care to help?
Lady Bird is my favourite and most re-watched film ever. It probably feels painfully personal to every single young artsy queer (…it just is) non-millionaire white girl who has ever badly dyed her own hair, and so many others besides; that is testament to just how good this film is.
I saw it for the first time the day before my first uni interview aged 17. It was snowing, I was very depressed and hadn’t been outside for several days. I sobbed so hard I couldn’t breathe and when I walked out of the cinema it felt like something had changed. I watched it on my 18th birthday, when relationships have ended, the day before I moved to Newcastle, on days when I haven’t been able to get out of bed. The video of Greta Gerwig directing the rose garden scene has been consistently open on my laptop for about two years. This film feels to me like a best friend giving you a tissue for your tears while making you laugh, a long hug, and I know I’m not the only one.
I am so deeply sentimental for Lady Bird; it’s hard to imagine that I’ll ever grow out of it. Future me, if you’re reading this, I hope you still have pink hair <3.
All Image Credit: IMDB
Last modified: 3rd May 2020