If you’re in the mood to ponder about life, these five movies will get you started. By Sharifah Nursyafiqah
I love romantic comedies, campy flicks, and animated classics as much as the next person, but sometimes there are few things better than putting on a moving film that makes you think about life, and the many ways you can experience it. There is a lot to be said about movies that are deeply introspective and tug at emotional heartstrings without being difficult to understand. These are movies that marry entertainment, great filmmaking, and a nuanced view of human experiences and emotions without being pretentious. Here are my top picks:
(Warning: Some spoilers ahead)
1. Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind (2004)
One of my all-time favourite movies sees Jim Carrey in a romantic science-fiction flick, where he plays Joel, a man who meets the attractive Clementine (played by Kate Winslet) on a train from Montauk. What they did not realise was, Joel and Clementine were once in a relationship with each other, but after a fight, Clementine engages the services of a memory-erasing company to erase her memories of the relationship, and even memories of ever having met Joel. When he found out, Joel was understandably devastated, and decides to do the same.
This film was unexpectedly tender, especially when you gain insights into the characters and ideas of human companionship. I love this movie for the emotional scenes depicting Joel fighting to hold on to his memories of Clementine, but more than that, it gets you thinking about how when we lose our memories, good or bad, we hardly realise it at all.
2. Ruby Sparks (2012)
At first impression, Ruby Sparks seems like your typical romantic flick, with the protagonist, a lonely novelist named Calvin, needing a Manic Pixie Dream Girl to get him out of his writing rut. He magically manifests the ideal woman as he tries to produce a story on his old typewriter – a woman named Ruby, who is vivacious, exciting, and the perfect antidote to Calvin’s depression. Even better, Calvin can dictate Ruby’s actions, as he can control her by the words he writes. How it differs from the run-of-the-mill romance is that as Ruby grows into her own character, Calvin fiercely tries to force her into the mould he created, which leads to raw and heartbreaking scenes that offers a beautifully vulnerable look at how we view the typical dream girl theme in film.
Fun fact: Paul Dano, who plays Calvin, has been in a real-life relationship with his film romance played by Zoe Kazan, since 2007. It is no wonder they have incredible chemistry onscreen!
3. Short Term 12 (2013)
The captivating Brie Larson plays Grace, a supervisor at a foster-care home for troubled teens called Short Term 12. The movie follows her journey – from her relationship with co-worker Mason to her interactions with the teens in the home. We slowly learn more about her own troubled past, and understand why Grace is emotionally closed up, and identifies with her young charges, particularly the tough Marcus and new arrival Jayden. Undoubtedly, Larson’s acting lends to most of the appeal of the film. The film could so easily have fallen into the “Save Our Students” type of movie trope, but on the contrary, it was highly thought-provoking, painfully honest, and definitely a must-watch.
4. Me, Earl, and The Dying Girl (2015)
It is rare that coming-of-age films strike a chord like this movie does, without relying too much on well-worn storylines about high school romances and teenage angst. The story follows the odd friendship between the dorky Greg, his intriguing “co-worker” Earl, and Rachel, who has just been diagnosed with leukaemia. If you think this sounds like The Fault In Our Stars, though, you’re wrong. This film is thoughtful and endearing in its self-consciousness, but the friendships, not the romance, are its best parts. The script is deadpan, sharp, and funny, and coupled with director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s artful shots, this is definitely more than your usual teen film. And the tears? Inevitable.
5. Anomalisa (2016)
This animated, stop-motion film is the latest marvel from Charlie Kaufman, the man behind Eternal Sunshine. So you can expect it to be insightful, compelling, and rich in emotional depth. For something that seems cartoon-like, this film is really heartfelt, and follows the journey of Michael Stone, a deeply depressed motivational speaker on a business trip. Everyone around him looks and sounds the same, until he encounters a woman named Lisa, whose unique voice seems to jolt him awake. But don’t be deceived, this is not a love story – in fact, it is a story of heartbreak and futility. Human interactions can be exhausting – if you’ve ever felt alone in a room full of people, you might identify with Michael’s jadedness. That said, this movie will also get you thinking about happiness and fulfilment, and how you cannot wait for an anomaly, or external source, to give meaning to your life.
Anomalisa is currently showing at The Projector.