When life gets you down, watch a movie.
Things have gotten pretty bleak lately. The weather’s colder, the days have grown shorter, and there’s a loud, orange American stealing headlines & making everyone’s lives that much more stressful. On a personal scale, stress, depression and anxiety are problems we’re becoming all too familiar with. It’s in times like these that we’ve found solace in movie magic and escapism to help us through. So, in light of everything going on in the world, each member of the MTC crew have chosen a particular ‘feel-good film’, with a few words about why they give us the warm and fuzzies. So to anyone out there struggling right now, sit back, relax, read and be sure to watch a few films. This one’s for you guys.
Sing Street (2016)
Selected by Puff (@_staypuffed)
After bringing us two music-centric dramadies with Begin Again and Once, writer/director John Carney returns with his latest bildungsroman. Set within his hometown of Dublin during the mid-1980s, we follow Conor Lalor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), a teenager sent off to a strict new Christian school by his imploding family. Struggling to ease his predicaments at school and at home, he is instantly drawn to the enigmatic Raphina (Lucy Boynton). Eager to impress, Conor scrappily assembles a band, Sing Street, and we become swept up in his journey of passion and self-expression.
With its blend of euphoric escapism and aching realism, Sing Street is one of the most affecting films 2016 has to offer. It’s frequently joyous, as we watch the young band build music from the ground up. As it’s a large focus of the film, there’s a collection of original music here intertwined with the likes of Duran Duran and the Clash, all of which work with the narrative. But there are some real gut-punches of emotion here. There’s a plethora of elements here to relate to — parental worries, relationship woes, an uncertainty of the future — and Carney captures them very effectively.
Conor is an enjoyable protagonist for the tale, especially when it comes to his relationship with Raphina (fueled by a magnetic performance from Boynton). Their relationship ebbs and flows; just when you expect it to follow the established path, one of the two characters swerves in a new direction. Sing Street also dedicates much of its runtime to exploring brotherhood. There’s a rich relationship between Conor and his older brother, Brendan. As Conor’s life expands, a comparison is drawn between siblings; the younger boy with his life ahead of him, the older man with his behind him. Brendan serves as a mentor to Conor — a man with genuine talent and passion, only to lose his drive and become weighed down by the unpredictability of existence. Jack Reynor immerses himself within the dynamic (this is a far cry from the Reynor seen in Transformers: Age of Extinction) in one of our favourite performances of the year.
Still, Sing Street’s strongest focus is on art, on creativity, on the freedom of confidence and collaboration. After such a grueling (but undeniably important) week, I often felt that movies, media, art didn’t matter anymore. How could they? I’m sure I wasn’t alone. But art and entertainment is important. They’re what get us through moments like this. They allow us to make sense of what is happening, what has happened, what will happen. Even with all that maybe be occurring, we cannot stop creating. Sing Street is a beautiful (and aching) reminder of that.
Big Hero 6 (2014)
Selected by Jeremy (@SauronsBANE)
After so many years of unparalleled success, Pixar films have seemed to corner the market in terms of animated children’s movies with humor, heart, and healthy messages for kids and adults. So when it comes to the types of movies one may choose to watch when feeling down, angry, lonely, or just simply in the mood for a pick-me-up in the form of a motion picture (something most of us could relate to right about now), almost any Pixar film would figure to land at the top of most people’s lists, naturally.
The last several years, however, have featured a much-welcomed uptick in variety for this quirky little ‘sub-genre’ (up to and including this year’s Kubo and the Two Strings, the simply masterful gem from LAIKA). Received with hearty fanfare, universal praise, and even an Oscar for Best Animated Film, Disney’s Big Hero 6 is an optimistic, heartfelt, and refreshingly pro-science adventure that boils down to one core theme — dealing with, accepting, moving on, and ultimately healing from the indescribable pain of losing a loved one.
Such a weighty topic might seem out-of-place in the otherwise bright, futuristic, slightly heightened sci-fi world of San Fransokyo, but it’s the relentlessly emotional arc that Hiro Hamada undergoes that grounds all this into something real and tangible. How many movies would have the time, the patience, and the interest to zero in on its protagonist experiencing and navigating through the Five Stages of Grief while also delivering on the superheroic antics promised to us?
As viewers, witnessing Hiro’s personal devastating loss right alongside him might feel like the exact opposite of a pick-me-up, but the film argues that the tears are perhaps the most necessary part of the process (“Crying is a natural response to pain,” coos the lovable, scene-stealing healthcare robot Baymax as he struggles to diagnose Hiro’s emotional trauma).
Tears can be shed, anger and rage and misguided thoughts of vengeance may get the better of us, mistakes will be made and, yes, that pain will always remain… but Big Hero 6 makes an emphatic case that with a little support and unconditional love from friends and family, at the end of it all lies hope, comfort, laughter, and a reason to smile again.
It’s Kind Of A Funny Story (2010)
Selected by Minty (@mintsanity)
Sentimentality in film is a strange beast. Many cinephiles claim Hollywood has too much of it. They often brand it manipulative, or unrealistic — and I think, in part, that’s true. There are few things more disappointing than a filmmaker desperately trying to goad an emotional reaction from their audience to little or no avail. And yet, when it hits, when you’re able to form that personal connection and your heart can’t help but swoon with joy… oh man, there’s no other feeling quite like it.
It’s Kind Of A Funny Story isn’t the most perfect example of this. Adapted by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck from Ned Vizzini’s acclaimed book of the same name, it boasts a relatively familiar coming-of-age story and falls into all the classic Hollywood trappings that make sentiment so reviled by some. But with the right viewer, in the right mood, it can have an unexpectedly profound effect.
The movie revolves around Craig (Keir Gilchrist), a young, bright, middle class teenager with no earthly idea why he’s depressed. He checks into an adult psychiatric ward, and from there various hijinks ensue. He finds a colourful ensemble of characters who blossom from a bunch of stereotypes to a genuine living, breathing network of people as the film progresses. There’s a fun, romantic sub-plot with an appropriately surly Emma Roberts — but the movie’s strongest moments come from the bond forged between Craig and the deeply conflicted Bobby (Zack Galifianakis, with a career-best turn).
From the start, Craig’s mental health is never made out to be this huge injustice. It’s just an unglamorous component of day-to-day life, and one most of us have struggled with at one point or another. The story takes a fairly whimsical and unrealistic path in helping Craig deal with his depression, but the ultimate message is one we can all relate to: Just live. There’s more to life than the stresses we place on ourselves, or comparing our perceived failings to the successes of others around us. We’ve only got x many years left on this dumb planet, so why not just live them?
At least, that’s what I took away from it. I was 16-years-old when I first saw this, with two failed suicide attempts under my belt. I can barely describe how, but it affected me. The light-hearted and optimistic take on depression? Sign me up. The traditionally corny movie romance and friendships? Hell yes. And that unapologetically sentimental message of hope masquerading as the film’s third act? I was all about that shit. Nowadays, I’ve seen it so many times it doesn’t quite have the effect on me it once did, but that doesn’t really matter. I’ll always be grateful to it for saving my life.