‘Writers Choice’ is a monthly segment. Each month a theme will be chosen and the contributors asked to choose a film to mini-review based around said theme. This month’s theme is ‘acceptance’.
My Own Private Idaho is a strange hybrid. With language stripped from Shakespeare’s Henry IV and Henry V series and imagery similar to the written text of Kerouac’s Americana landscapes, the film creates a dreamlike narrative as we follow Mike (River Phoenix), a young street hustler living in Portland, Oregon.
Gus Van Sant has a talent for capturing the heartache of youth, with acceptance being a common theme in his directorial back catalogue. While the film paints itself like a fantasy at points, there is always a creeping sadness waiting in the wings, ready to make an unwanted entrance.
Shrouded in all its weirdness – with equally tender moments – there is something captivating about Idaho that makes it equally beautiful and sad to watch as Mike seeks love from all corners of his life. Even his best friend Scott (Keanu Reeves), who is one of the only people Mike trusts, becomes a distant memory when the two go on a quest to find Mike’s mother and his attention draws elsewhere.
Though burning questions of Mike’s future are never answered (with an even more ambiguous ending than the start of the film proposed) I wanted to carry on looking at Mike’s life through a distant lens in hope that he would find whatever he was looking for.
If there is any fictional character that deserves a happy ending – whatever that truly means – it is Mike. –Cherokee
KIKI’S DELIVERY SERVICE (1989)
You know the saying, “Don’t let anyone dull your sparkle?” Well, it holds a lot of truth in Hayao Miyazaki’s film Kiki’s Delivery Service. It was the first Studio Ghibli film I had ever seen, so I hold it very close to my heart. It is definitely one of Miyazaki’s “mellow” films, but I think it is a great representation of the theme “acceptance.”
Whenever a witch turns thirteen, she is required to leave home for a year in order to “train”. At the beginning of the film, Kiki decides she is ready to venture out into the real world. Upon reaching the city of Koriko, Kiki is given a place to stay by a bakery owner named Osono. To repay her, Kiki creates a delivery service. Although a boy named Tombo, who is interested in aviation, fancies Kiki and her flying ability and the townspeople find her intriguing, Kiki is too busy focusing on the fact that she can only fly.
After a few encounters with some pretentious friends of Tombo, Kiki feels like an outsider. This causes her to fall into a deep depression, which then results in her losing her flying ability. With support from Osono, her cat, Jiji, and her new friend, Ursula, Kiki gets the confidence to embrace her talents. This allows her to save Tombo when he is faced with a life or death situation, but it also allows her to regain her powers.
This film taught me that we all have the capability to be great, but we cannot let the opinions of others affect our own opinions of ourselves. The people who matter will see the magic inside of us and accept us for our unique talents. I know, I know. It sounds incredibly cheesy, but Miyazaki always knows what’s up. Always. –Cristina
¡CONTAINS SPOILERS! (I strongly advise that if you haven’t already watched the film, you watch it first AND THEN read this. It’s super good movie and I don’t want to ruin it for anyone!)
The Machinist follows Trevor Reznik (Christian Bale), an insomniac working for an industrial firm. The film opens with Reznik hauling a rolled up carpet into a ditch which is left unexplained, setting the tone for the rest of the film. After being blamed for an accident at work, in which Reznik’s co-worker loses an arm, Trevor starts to believe that everyone is working against him. They claim they cannot see the disturbing new worker, Ivan, and mysterious post-it-notes start appearing around Reznik’s apartment with clues in the style of hangman for Trevor to work out. This escalates into Reznik eventually slitting Ivan’s throat and here we reunite with the begging as Reznik drags Ivan’s body wrapped up the a rug to dump it, but when he unravels the carpet there is no body inside.
As it turns out, Reznik’s insomnia and paranoia are his way of coping with his murder of a boy named Nicholas in a hit and run collision. He attempts to bury the incident in his subconscious, but it cannot stay there; (here’s where this month’s theme comes in) Reznik must accept what he’s done. This is manifested into the sinister, imaginary figure of Ivan and Reznik leaving himself clues around his house hinting at his own guilt. The movie ends with Reznik turning himself into the police after coming to terms with his crime. It’s all very complicated and makes much more sense if you actually watch it.
The film is brilliantly disjointed as Reznik becomes increasingly paranoid and somewhat hysterical. It has an industrial, grisliness to it where you can almost smell the iron and steel and mechanical fumes. Also, it’s practically impossible not to mention Christian Bale’s EXTREME dedication to the role; he lost 63 pounds going from 13 down to 8 stone!! He totally inhabited Reznik making it completely believable for him to not have slept in over a year. His performance is definitely award worthy in my opinion. –Joanna
Inside Llewellyn Davis is the story of a struggling folk singer and his attempts to stop being quite so struggling. Inside Llewellyn Davis takes very surprising stances on acceptance because, like most Coen Brothers films it’s not what you think. Acceptance is often seen in movies to be a good thing, something positive the character achieves but this depiction focuses on how acceptance can be negative. Accepting your situation entirely means you have little drive to attempt to reach for more. This exasperating feeling is exactly how the audience feels when watching Llewellyn, who is far too accepting of his situation. Despite travelling great distances to pursue his dream, leaving both a man and a cat for dead in the process, there is a slightly frustrating feeling all the way through that Llewellyn isn’t really shifting out of neutral, and that if he just tried a little harder maybe things would go his way. Almost everything in the movie happens twice *spoiler alert(ish)* from him being punched, to loosing the cat, to the abortions yet Llewellyn learns little from every experience and always reacts in the same way. Almost everyone in the movie (especially the women, because you know all we do is nag) is constantly telling Llewellyn to either give up folk music or get his act together, and it’s clear that even those who don’t say it are thinking it. Inside Llewellyn Davis is a depressing, annoying but amusing account of struggle and acceptance. It gives a realistic approach and ending to a real life problem which was refreshing because don’t most positive attributes such as being accepting have serious down sides? –Bella
East of Eden is a 1955 drama film directed by Elia Kazan and stars James Dean in his first ever major picture role. This film is a modern re-telling of the famous Cain and Abel story found in the book of Genesis. Basically, Cal (James Dean) is a young man who vies for his father’s love. He feels like no matter what he does his seemingly perfect brother Aron will always be their fathers favourite. When Cal finds a way to make his father money (as he lost a huge sum of it trying to ship lettuce to New York) and finally beats Aron at being the better child, his father instead gets angry at him. This event is the beginning of a domino effect as it causes Cal and Aron to find out his mother is alive and well (after being told she died long ago), Aron’s girlfriend, Abra, falling in love with Cal, Aron enlisting in the army and their father catching a stroke. I found East of Eden a bit slow at but James Dean is absolutely terrific as the alienated and eccentric Cal. His performance is enticing and really makes the movie the interesting. This could also be said about the other actors as well. Raymond Massey, who plays Cal and Aron’s father, Adam, also has this effect on the movie. You wouldn’t expect him to be angry at what Cal did; you also wouldn’t expect how emotionless he became when Cal tried to hug him. The colour scheme in this movie was also really good. Every scene had rich hues of brown and tans, it really set the atmosphere. In retrospect East of Eden was a really good film and well worth my time (something that a lot of dramas from the 50’s aren’t in my opinion) and very heart breaking. A solid seven out of ten. –Monica
Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal) learns that the world will end in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes and 12 seconds – or so a giant imaginary bunny rabbit named Frank tells him. Yes, It sounds like a psychedelic 28 Days Later but far from that, Richard Kelly’s Donnie Darko fits more in the genre of the coming of age darkly humorous psychological mind-fuck. It’s hard to explain this without ruining it or confusing you, but if you are looking for a film to think about for days and days and probably months and months and re watch again and again, just like I did (23 times and counting), then this is the film for you. Either that or you will hate it and disregard it as too pointless, too edgy and too ambiguous, like most of the friends I forced to watch it did. Set in suburban Middle America, with humour so dark it’s not really that funny, a paranoid schizophrenic protagonist, an amazing soundtrack, and shadowy characters like ‘Grandma Death’, Donnie Darko is sort of the Fight Club of teen flicks. But just to warn you this film is good at inducing existential crisis’ and helping you accept that you may not be in control of your own path in life. ( Also, don’t watch the director’s cut until you’ve watched the other version at least 5 times). –Reba
You know those films that hold a place in your heart, for whatever reason, and you look back on that film with so much fondness and happiness? The Breakfast Club is one of those films for me. One of the first films I properly fell in love with, TBC is about five high school students who meet in detention, being five different high school stereotypes they have nothing in common, later on in detention they find out they’re a lot similar than they thought.
I believe that this film’s main theme is acceptance, acceptance of yourself, acceptance of others, acceptance of the fact that everyone is going through struggles.
Acceptance is a theme that means a lot of different things to people. And I think that The Breakfast Club encompasses all of those meanings. I’m tearing up writing this. –Anand
Beginners is a story of, you guessed it, beginnings and endings and the acceptance of the two. The year is 2003 and graphic designer Oliver Fields (Ewan McGregor) recounts the life of his father Hal, (Christopher Plummer) who has just passed away from cancer. Prior to his death Oliver also comes to learn that his father is gay, something he must come to accept as his father lives out the years of fun he missed whilst he was married and living in a time when homosexuals were not as widely accepted. Hal begins throwing parties, involving himself in politics and learning about new things such as the joys of house music.
Thrown in amongst this is Anna (Melanie Laurent) whom Oliver meets at a costume party, they begin a turbulent relationship but one that is both funny and moving. Anna is a free-spirit and a manic pixie dream girl, hence why their relationship is never quite settled.
The nostalgic look back over Oliver’s life is very frequent and shots of his childhood occur throughout the film through kooky slideshow-esque editing and Ewan McGregor’s lovely narration. The slow moving nature of the film is its primary charm. ‘Beginners’ is a sweet-natured story of a man trying to accept his reality. –Chloe
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