You may have noticed there’s a lot going on in this thing we call life.
Which is why I think there’s an endless array of movies to tell its stories – all the heartache, laughter, silliness, gravity and pain, and all the nuanced and messy emotions inbetween.
So here are five movies that attempt to tell the story of what it means to be human and how, even when we royally muck things up, that someone somewhere will have our back.
Comedy and tragedy can be tough to blend, especially when it comes to a topic as heavy as cancer (the disease afflicting David’s mom Joanne, played to perfection by Molly Shannon). But Other People maintains that balance better than most. There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, many of which are intermingled with sob-out-loud moments. It helps greatly that first-time director Chris Kelly maintains a low-key, naturalistic vibe throughout. When a sad moment yields some laughs, or a funny moment gives way to a tearjerking one, it doesn’t feel like he’s pulling the audience from one extreme to another. It just feels like the way sad and funny actually do mix, all the time, in real life. (synopsis via Slashfilm)
Facing the imminent death of someone you love is never, ever easy.
It tears you up inside and try as you might to be upbeat and as normal as possible for their sake, the reality is that waiting for the other mortal shoe to drop is an interminable act of torture that no one should ever have to go through.
And yet it can’t be avoided and so like David in Other People, we bounce between moments of defiant normality and where people are brave enough to admit to the truth, like the members of his family, the horrifying truth of what is to come.
All of which means that life is lived in the shadow of death, of laughter and sorrow, or the companionable now and soon to be bereft future.
Oddly enough for all the deathliness overshadowing everything, this can be a time of real closeness and bonding, a richness of familial experience that the day to day toing-and-froing of life with its many demands, doesn’t usually allow for.
Still, Variety doesn’t quite feel the movie captures this unsettling emotional dichotomy as well as it might have:
“Slickly assembled and loosely inspired by writer-director Kelly’s own experience, Other People seeks to capture the sort of raw emotional tidal wave — encompassing grief, horror and often incongruous, inexplicable hilarity — that anyone who’s watched a loved one wither away will instinctively recognize. But while the movie is rooted in what feel like real-life specifics — a scene at an improv-comedy club, the recurring snippets of Train’s “Drops of Jupiter” on the soundtrack — it rings personal more often than it rings true, and at times it feels rather too attuned to its protagonist’s self-pity.”
Even so, with Molly Shannon playing the role of the woman close to losing her battle with cancer and affecting performances from others like Bradley Whitfield and Jesse Plemons as David, Other People still comes across as a film that captures the weird mix of emotions into which everyone is subsumed when death comes a-calling with advance notice.
Other People premieres 9 September in USA and in Australia on 20 September at Queer Screen Film Fest.
Based on M.L. Stedman’s debut novel, which is officially described as follows:
After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island where the supply boat comes once a season, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.
Tom, who keeps meticulous records and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel insists the baby is a “gift from God,” and against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them. (synopsis via Coming Soon)
This film looks like harrowing but rewarding viewing.
Watching people who have gone through so much suddenly be given everything they have ever wanted tugs at the heartstrings in a primal way that can help but affect you.
But as we are reminded in a narrative, and both the trailers that have been released promoting the film, no man or grieving woman is an island and sometime, somehow, actions taken in isolation will have repercussions.
Granted this film looks cookie-cutter made for awards season and is all but guaranteed to make audiences share a tear or two, but it rests on a fundamental truth – that life doesn’t always give us what we want and that even when it does, the gift we are given may come with unforeseen, emotionally-devastating consequences.
The Light Between Oceans premieres 2 September USA and 26 December in Australia.
The Hollars follows John Hollar (Krasinski), a struggling NYC artist, who is forced to navigate the small middle-American town he left behind when news of his mother’s illness brings him home. Back in the house he grew up in, John is immediately swept up in the problems of his dysfunctional family, high school rival, and an over-eager ex-girlfriend as he faces impending fatherhood with his girlfriend in New York. (synopsis via Coming Soon)
Families can be both a blessing and a curse.
If you’re one of the lucky ones and many of us are, you’ll be surrounded by people who, though gloriously dysfunctional at times, still have your back as your have theirs.
But even in the most loving of families, problems can arise and they’re not always easily solvable.
Still as The Hollars demonstrates there’s usually a way, no matter how unexpected or unorthodox, through most situations; the journey through them may not be the most fun you’ve ever had nor something you’d wish to repeat.
But with family by your side, it’s all survivable … possibly.
Variety once again was exactly enamoured of the film:
“John Krasinki’s The Hollars peppily charts the further unraveling of an already dysfunctional clan when its guiding matriarch is faced with a life-threatening brain tumor. Yet while its brand of laughter-through-the-tears humanism is utterly familiar, that’s not to say it bears even a glancing resemblance to real life: The emotional responses elicited here go about as deep as the “awwws” and “ahhhs” of a live studio audience at a network sitcom taping. Still, sitcoms have their place, and so does The Hollars; with its comfy cast of pros playing amiably to type, it should amble easily enough down ancillary avenues.”
But the trailer suggests it does nail the heart of every healthy family’s dynamic – we may not get everything right in life, not even how we relate to each other but that’s OK because in the end everyone muddles through and is there for each other, and that’s all that matters, regardless of where the chips may fall.
The Hollars premieres 26 August in USA.
From acclaimed writer/director Jeff Nichols, Loving celebrates the real-life courage and commitment of an interracial couple, Richard and Mildred Loving (portrayed by Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga), who married and then spent the next nine years fighting for the right to live as a family in their hometown. Their civil rights case, Loving v. Virginia, went all the way to the Supreme Court, which in 1967 reaffirmed the very foundation of the right to marry – and their love story has become an inspiration to couples ever since. (synopsis via Coming Soon)
It’s all too easy, particularly when an issue consumes headlines and generates fevered public debate, to remember that at the heart of every groundbreaking moment are people simply trying to live their lives.
In the case of Richard and Mildred Loving, whose late 1960s legal campaign to have their marriage recognised in their home state came to define the very face of marriage in an America which was rapidly having many long-held social assumptions challenged, it was two people who profoundly and deeply loved one another.
Yes they had to fight to have their marriage treated as valid, something that in an ideal world should never have had to happen, but at the heart of that grueling campaign was the simple reality of two people who simply wanted to be left to live their lives as they saw fit.
And that’s where the greatest advances in society often come from – right-thinking people simply standing up for a self-evident truth that the close-minded and bigots of the world have chosen to ignore or trample over.
Loving looks like a powerfully affecting film that will remind us once again that evil only flourishes when good people say nothing but also that when you have people of the conviction and tenacity of Richard and Mildred Loving that real lasting change is possible and utterly transformational.
Loving premieres 4 November 2016 in USA and 12 January 2017 in Australia.
In this modern take on the Hollywood musical from Damien Chazelle, the Academy Award-nominated writer and director of “Whiplash,” Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone) are drawn together by their common desire to do what they love. But as success mounts they are faced with decisions that begin to fray the fragile fabric of their love affair, and the dreams they worked so hard to maintain in each other threaten to rip them apart. (synopsis via Coming Soon)
Love sweet glorious love – ain’t it grand, ain’t it wonderful?
And as Erica Bahrenburg from Film School Rejects notes, immensely powerful and pleasurable to watch when the right actors are bringing it to life.
“Chemistry between actors can make or break what it is you are watching. Two of the actors that have mastered that distinctive spark between people in love are Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. They first appeared together in Crazy, Stupid, Love and were remarkably charismatic and charming. Then they were paired together in Gangster Squad. While the film was a dud, their chemistry was the bright spot that makes the film. Now, they are back playing lovers for a third time in La La Land, Damien Chazelle’s hotly anticipated second feature.”
La La Land looks downright magical, despite its tale of two people struggling to make a relationship work, a musical delight that reminds us how wonderful and profoundly delightful love can be even in the tough times.
La La Land premieres 2 December in USA and 5 January 2017.