Not all films are set in the present landscape. Sometimes, we find ourselves in the future with Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford, sometimes we find ourselves in the past, exploring the trials and tribulations of war, of women facing oppression, of a killer 80s soundtrack. For today’s challenge, our writers go back in time and explore their favourite films set in a different era.
When I saw the prompt for today, my mind instantly went to Brooklyn. Starring the wonderful Saoirse Ronan and set in the 1950s, I’d say that this is one of those films that everyone will enjoy.
The film revolves around a woman named Eilis who moves to New York after living in Ireland her whole life. The film shows her trying to adjust to the changes of moving from her home country, away from her family. Whilst she’s in New York she falls in love, and she struggles to decide whether to move back home after family troubles, or stay with Tony.
I love this film. If you’ve ever moved away somewhere (or even just to university), you’ll probably relate to Eilis quite a bit. I heavily relate to Eilis and the life of living in a small town where everyone knows everyone’s business, and everything stays the same. However, moving away isn’t always as easy as you hope when you leave a lot of people behind who you care about. This film perfectly shows the trials and tribulations of life, and how sometimes life can take you on a journey that you didn’t expect.
Brooklyn is set in the 1950s because it was a time of second-wave Irish immigration to New York, as many Irish people immigrated with the hopes of better life opportunities and job prospects, which is ultimately Eilis’ own reason for moving. The 1950s aesthetic is shown throughout and is an integral part of the story, focusing particularly on the role of women within society and their life prospects. The costumes are also genuinely beautiful, but I’m not a historical expert who can say whether they are entirely accurate or not.
This film ultimately taught me that there are different meanings of what home is. Home can be a place, or it can be the people you feel the safest with. As Tony says, “Home is home.”
Disclaimer; I don’t really like Jane Austen. Sorry. “Emma” was the first Austen novel I really tried to read despite my English teacher spoiling the ending because she assumed I’d seen the film (for the love of god, read the book before the film!). All I can remember is a lot of dialogue about growing tomatoes. But anyway. When I heard Autumn De Wilde was making an adaptation, I wasn’t fussed. But then posters came out and preview stills… and honestly? It looked beautiful.
It’s so much better than I thought it would be; Emma was brought to life by Anya Taylor-Joy, and whilst I found her plain irritating as the protagonist of the book, something just clicked and I liked her a little more in the film. Bill Nighy is so brilliant as her father, that I even found myself considering going back and reading the book again, in case I was wrong the first time round. Miranda Hart was made to be Miss Bates – who, again, was plain irritating in the book, but here? Great. Connor Swindells and Tanya Reynolds, aka Adam and Lily from Sex Education are in the film as well! Stellar cast, great film – maybe I do need to go back and re-read the book…
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)
Films set in different eras are great as they give you insight into a different way of life. But what’s even better when a character of that film is a physical embodiment of that era. The 60s were awesome with hippies, flower power, and a butt ton of psychedelic drugs and who is a physical manifestation of this era? Shrek, that’s who.
Wait no. Right actor just wrong movie. I meant the groovy international man of mystery Austin Powers.
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997) is by no means an Oscar winning masterpiece, but it sure is a fun watch and full to the brim with great, and crude jokes (yes, I have the humour of a child). The James Bond parody is my favourite performance by Mike Myers which is definitely saying something with my level of affection for Shrek. While the Jonny English movies are great, they most certainly pale in comparison to Mr Powers when it comes to the comedy/spy genre.
Mike Myers doesn’t just do a great job as Austin Powers though as he also plays one of the most iconic villains in cinema, Dr. Evil. Despite being a clear parody of the 007 villain Blofeld, Dr. Evil surpasses him by a country mile with his idiot personality and family dramas. Also, his love of sharks with freaking lasers is commendable and is rivalled only by my own.
Mid 90’s (2018)
Era means a long and distant time in history, so this film doesn’t quite fit the bill, however it is confusingly a period piece. This film has the most incredible attention to detail making it in my opinion one of the best films to transport you back to a different period of time. It’s meticulous recreation of the 90’s is admirable and while we normally think period and we think lavish Elizabethan dresses, this film shook up the definition slightly by really embodying the 1990s.
It follows a group of skaters in L-A as they tackle everything from the mundane to the life changing. It especially follows Stevie who is the 13-year-old protagonist of the story. Jonah Hill’s clear understanding of the 90’s skating scene is evident making for a very believable setting and characters. Not only this but newcomer Sunny Suljic as Stevie is mind blowing, he is energetic and funny while also being tender and lovable. It’s an extremely well-rounded performance coupled with an excellent directorial debut. This may not be set in another era as such but it does immerse you in a time period so completely and so skilfully I couldn’t not mention it.
Hidden Figures (2016)
Based on a true story, Hidden Figures (2016) is a long-overdue celebration of the women who enabled NASA’s success in sending man to space. The film follows the lives of black female mathematicians Katherine Goble Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) as they face racial prejudice and sexism at NASA, whilst their calculations prove vital to the Space Race against the Russians in 1961.
Hidden Figures gives an insight into how these women were overlooked and underestimated in the workplace, struggling with the segregation surrounding their race and their gender in a place ruled by white men. The film also looks at the personal lives of these women, particularly Mary’s determination to become an engineer, Dorothy’s fight to become the supervisor of the Programming Department and Katherine’s blossoming relationship with military officer Jim Johnson (Mahershala Ali).
By the end of the film, it’s touching to finally see these extraordinary women being acknowledged for their work. All three women go on to have their own success stories, with their perseverance being rewarded as they finally gain the respect they deserve, which should have been in place from the start.
The Breakfast Club (1985)
I love The Breakfast Club for many reasons…one being because it is set in the 80s…the 80s outfits, the perfectly captured 80s teenage angst, the wonderful cast, the comedy but most of all…that soundtrack. Boy that soundtrack hits the spot. And while this film has the 80s tint and the 80s feel about it, all of it still stands still together – the cliques, the problems, the apathy of being a teenager as we attempt to break down those walls around us and show we are human under our stereotypical fronts.
The Breakfast Club combines the typical 80s stereotypes – the dork, the jock, the rebel, the beauty queen and the eccentric artist as they are all forced to coexist in the same situation together, a High School weekend detention. John Hughes does a brilliant masterful job of writing such compelling stories and characters that perfectly capture this era of America. He brings a sense of sentimentality to it for those alive during the era, allowing you to relate to the story and the characters. Coming from a small town myself, I knew and grew up with everyone in my class too. We all fit into the stereotypes this film depicts.
There are plenty other films that are set in different eras, but if you’re looking for a nice chill comedy with a dash of realism, The Breakfast Club is the one. And if you love the 80s, you’ll love this film.
Suite Française (2014)
I’m quite a huge fan of period dramas and films that aren’t set in the current era, from period pieces such as Little Women, Pride and Prejudice, Young Victoria, The Other Boleyn Girl, The King, and some films set in later times such as Oscar and The Imitation Game, however, for different eras I love war films – especially those based around World War 2. As morbid as it sounds I’m fascinated by WWII so I love a war film.
With the endless list of war films I have so many favourites, there is Allied, Pearl Harbour, Hacksaw Ridge, Inglorious Bastards, but there is some about Suite Française, and I’ve re-watched it more times than I can count. Instead of focusing on the British view of the war it is focused on the German occupation in France.
Suite Française is a British-French-Belgian romantic World War II drama film, based on the second part of Irène Némirovsky’s 2004 novel of the same name. The film is about a lovely Frenchwoman, Lucile Angellier (Michelle Williams), whose husband is away at war. She then begins a tentative romance with the German soldier, Bruno von Falk (Matthias Schoenaerts) who has taken up residence in her mother-in-law’s house. They bond over their love for classical music.
The film focuses on love, duty, conflict, loyalty, and the hardships those faced throughout the war with wartime romances. It is a very heart-warming film showing another perspective of the war that isn’t all about fighting.
The Handmaiden (2016)
I’m not spoiling anything because the unexpectedness makes it fully dazzling, but this film made me audibly gasp and involuntarily clamp my hands to my mouth.
Set in 1930’s Korea under Japanese occupation, with the plot itself based on Sarah Waters’ iconic Victorian-set book ‘Fingersmith’, The Handmaiden follows a maid who enters a rich household under instruction from a con-man, but develops a relationship with the woman she is trying to trick. Although directed by a man in Park Chan-wook, this film is different from lesbian fetishizing disasters such as Blue is the Warmest Colour in its exploration of the deadly oppressiveness of the male gaze as a central theme, and it remains highly erotic but never, in my eyes, exploitative.
If you are patient throughout its long but craftily perfect, never dull run-time, the slow build pays off exceptionally.
Last modified: 9th May 2020