20 Comfort Films That Got Us Through 2020

Collage by Nathasha Orlando Kappler

Oh 2020, what a year! A year that forced us to remain confined to the walls of our homes, shielded from natural light, fresh air, family and friends, and of course the thrilling gamble of entering a busy tube where a stranger might just unapologetically invade our personal space. In a year of climate catastrophes, social upheaval, and political change, it was almost impossible to turn away from the news, especially as every new government announcement was throwing zanier plot twists at us than any Netflix drama.

The pandemic’s irreversible damage to the film industry may have limited the opportunity to visit local cinemas for new releases, though it did provide us with a chance to finally seek out revered classics from our Letterboxd watchlists, and to retreat into what is familiar and comfortable territory. Like a tight warm hug we’ve sorely needed, sometimes it just takes one of our beloved films to reassure us that we’ll be alright. In the following list, our lovely contributors share their favourite films that offered much needed comfort in 2020…

Imagine Me & You (2005)

A still from 'Imagine Me & You'. Two women (played by Lena Headey and Piper Perabo) are embracing each other and laughing.
Lena Headey and Piper Perabo in Imagine Me & You (2005)

Megan Wilson

By the time UK lockdown rolled around, I could count on one hand the amount of films I’d seen for pleasure. I just didn’t seem to have the focus or the interest to sit and watch anything for two hours, especially not something unfamiliar. The exhaustion of watching films relentlessly for academic purposes for four years, coupled with the overwhelming anxiety of a global pandemic, did not leave me feeling like surfing Netflix to find relief in the chaos. But if there’s one film I can always return to when I’m in a funk, it’s Ol Parker’s Imagine Me & You. It’s got all the awkward charm, terrible outfits and received pronunciation of millennial British rom-coms like Notting Hill and Bridget Jones’ Diary, but it’s better because it’s gay. It’s a film I’ve seen many times, and returning to it always brings comfort. I don’t have to concentrate because I could probably read the script blindfolded, yet it still manages to make me laugh.

It’s cliche in all the right ways. Most importantly, it’s the unabashed, feel-good romance between two women that I never watched growing up. It would be the first of many long-distance lockdown movie nights that let me rediscover my love for films on my own terms, particularly in re-watching them through someone else’s first viewing. I remembered what it was like to genuinely find watching films calming and restorative, because I fell back on old favourites rather than forcing myself to watch the latest releases and keep up with the cultural zeitgeist. The beauty of Imagine Me & You is that your only worry will be what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object.

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018)

A still from 'Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again'. Young Donna And The Dynamos (played by Jessica Keenan Wynn, Lily James, and Alexa Davies) are dancing and singing in a Greek restaurant.
The cast of Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018)

Megan Wilson

When contemplating a late summer movie night, it seemed inevitable that I would come crawling back to the glorious follow-up to Mamma Mia! (yet another Ol Parker masterpiece). It’s a perfect musical – colourful, overly theatrical, and wrenches your heart out in the final moments. Plus, the sheer escapism of sinking your eyes into the dreamy white Greek isles and glistening blue ocean is enough to send anyone into a blissful reverie. Despite using up many of the ABBA classics in the first instalment, the sequel soundtrack manages to be even better, with lesser-heard bops like ‘When I Kissed the Teacher’ and ‘Why Did It Have to Be Me’ establishing themselves as the lesbian and bisexual cultural moments of the century.

Even killing off Meryl Streep can’t put a dampener on this film. Christine Baranski and Julie Walters acting as doting but unprepared mother figures to Sophie as she navigates life on her own is just about as heartwarming as a film can get. Not least, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again fondly reminds me of singing ‘Angel Eyes’ in my favourite lesbian bar with my flatmates, assuming the roles of Sophie, Rosie and Tanya respectively. What I wouldn’t give to be back in that tiny basement sinking Desperados with my best friends right now.

Spirited Away (2001)

A still from 'Spirited Away' (animation). A brown haired girl is riding a white and green dragon over the sea, with a small mouse and bird accompanying her.
Spirited Away (2001)

Daisy Leigh-Phippard

It’s strange to think that a tale of a girl getting lost in a world of gods and monsters, trapped there by a terrifying bathhouse-owning Witch, could be such a comforting thing, yet here we are. Hayao Miyazaki’s Oscar-winning animation was one that (ironically) scared me as a child and is no less disorientating to watch as an adult. But I know now that the reclusive spider-like boilerman Kamajī, the mute No Face who wears only an inexpressive mask, and the secretive right-hand to the Witch, Haku, will become close allies and dear friends of Chihiro, our heroine. Where they might once have been unfamiliar creatures from a mythology I didn’t know, they are now beloved characters.

As Neil Gaiman (who is no stranger to Miyazaki’s whimsy, having had a heavy role in translating Princess Mononoke from the original Japanese) explains, it is often the stories that “tell us dragons can be beaten” that are the most cathartic. Chihiro might be facing slightly different circumstances than ourselves when she finds herself at odds with Yubaba the Witch and the various tasks she’s sent to complete (perhaps working as a film PA has brought me even closer to her), but the fact Chihiro manages to leave the magical bathhouse with its spiritual occupants literally cheering her name is no small achievement and gratifyingly therapeutic. In the same way that Lewis Carroll’s Alice has comforted generations, Spirited Away knows that sometimes we need a little fantasy to understand our reality.

Begin Again (2013)

A still from 'Begin Again'. A man and a woman (played by Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley) are both listening to music via their headphones and staring sweetly at each other.
Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley in Begin Again (2013)

Daisy Leigh-Phippard

I could choose any of John Carney’s films to put on this list, but his love letter to New York is perhaps his most optimistic and cathartic work. With an all-star cast including Mark Ruffalo, Keira Knightley, Hailee Steinfeld, James Cordon, Adam Levine and Catherine Keener, it follows a chance encounter between Dan, a failing music executive, and Gretta, a depressed singer-songwriter, both in low moments of their lives. Realising they both share a taste in authentic music and a mild distaste for the commercial music industry, they venture out into the streets of Manhattan with a rag-tag band to create an album that captures the hustle and bustle, the quiet, and the hope of the city.

Carney has a reputation for his bittersweet endings; whatever the character wants at the beginning of the film, they probably won’t have as the credits roll. In Begin Again, Gretta won’t get back together with her pop star boyfriend, and Dan won’t go back to being the top music producer in the States. But Carney understands the importance of human connection (even if it can’t be physical). Though his films often feature a man and woman with somewhat romantic undertones, it’s often the platonic relationships that save them – Gretta and Dan’s musical partnership here being the perfect example. Things are never magically solved in a John Carney film, but he reminds us it’s alright as long as we leave good marks on the people around us.

The Princess Diaries (2001)

A still from 'The Princess Diaries'. An older woman and young woman (played by Julie Andrews and Anne Hathaway) are standing at the centre of a formal event, both wearing royal gowns and tiaras.
Julie Andrews and Anne Hathaway in The Princess Diaries (2001)

Graciela Mae

It’s no secret that a lot of us retreated to our younger selves this year; innocent times where your biggest worry was Silly Bandz or your Club Penguin membership running out — The Princess Diaries embodies all of that for me (and more). Starring the Disney legend herself, Julie Andrews, and a then eighteen year old Anne Hathaway, Gary Marshall’s 2001 classic has been a staple of my ‘Watch This If You Feel Like Shit’ film list for as long as I can remember. I recently rewatched the film with my younger brother and the look he gave when I recited pages of dialogue down to the beats was a beautiful mix of impressed and slightly terrified.

It may be a little too late for me to anticipate an estranged grandmother visiting out of the blue to tell me I’m actually a royal, but it is never the wrong time to revisit the magic of this joyous imagining of Meg Cabot’s world where an awkward San Francisco teen, just trying to make it through high school, can choose to rule an entire European kingdom before she even turns sixteen. Oh to have Julie Andrews as your Queen grandmother, rescuing you from the mayhem of high school and propelling you to princess lessons, Virginia Woolf, and royal makeovers. Somewhere out there, Genovia is enjoying its 113th day of zero coronavirus infections because Queen Mia tackled the pandemic pragmatically and responsibly.

Happiest Season (2020)

A still from 'Happiest Season'. A group of family and friends (played by Daniel Levy, Mackenzie Davies, Kristen Stewart, Victor Garber, Mary Steenburgen, Mary Holland, Aubrey Plaza, and Clea DuVall) are hugging each other and celebrating at a Gay Pride Parade.
The cast of Happiest Season (2020)

Graciela Mae

The discourse following the release of Clea DuVall’s Happiest Season seems like the opposite of the tranquillity we need this holiday season. However, endless in-depth analysis and an uproar on Twitter over a Christmas rom-com is perhaps the most lesbian response ever and thus, somehow, this reminder of community brings comfort (to me anyway). Nothing brings us together like a Clea DuVall film, starring Kristen Stewart, with a tense coming out story that is effortlessly stolen by Aubrey Plaza holding a glass of red wine. Since teasers of the film came out, the thought of enjoying a Christmas rom-com with stories that mirrored my own was something I clung onto and kept me hopeful for most of 2020.

While the first studio-backed film of its kind, it most certainly won’t be the last. The film has already broken Hulu records and DuVall herself has fuelled the speculations for a sequel. Harper’s (Mackenzie Davies) coming out story may not be the most comforting storyline but, as with every film of the genre, the story sheathes the temporary heartbreak with farce (big shout-out to the wholesome Jane, Harper’s sister played by co-writer, Mary Holland). In Happiest Season, it is a speech by John (Dan Levy) to a heartbroken Abby (Kristen Stewart) that wrenches your heart akin to watching Karen weep over a necklace with Joni Mitchell in the background. John’s speech, and Abby and Harper’s inevitable reunion gently reminding us of the importance of listening, understanding, and community.

Belle (2013)

A still from 'Belle'. Two women (played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Sarah Gadon) are sitting down next to each other and wearing period dresses.
Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Sarah Gadon in Belle (2013)

Ferdosa Abdi

Belle is not your ordinary English period drama. Although it still boasts it’s extravagant costuming, lush production designs, and that distinct manner of speaking that exudes eloquence, it is not like the others that have graced our screens for decades. This one stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw, a Black actress who is shockingly not ‘the help’ or a slave in this narrative. Although the film does navigate race and the atrocities of slavery, it is no different than the many Jane Austen adaptations that have brought me comfort. In this film, with Mbatha-Raw embodying the real Dido Elizabeth Belle and from the mind of the visionary director Amma Asante, this period drama speaks to who I am and allows me to be transported into a world and genre that holds a special place in my heart.

In a year that was so dire, Belle was there for me. It is thrilling to see oneself in a type of film that sparks joy. Belle sits on a shelf dedicated to period dramas that I adore which includes a number of Austen adaptations, Marie Antoinette, Lady Macbeth, Colette, the recent Emma., and Asante’s second film (also a period drama) A United Kingdom. This is a genre I love, it offers a wide range of narratives for me to enjoy, and this single one, Belle, is specially catered to me.

The Broken Hearts Gallery (2020)

A still from 'The Broken Hearts Gallery'. Three young women (played by Phillipa Soo, Geraldine Viswanathan, and Molly Gordon) are sitting next to each other and looking surprised.
The cast of The Broken Hearts Gallery (2020)

Ferdosa Abdi

This year has been wild for the theatrical experience. Cinemas may be dead once the year is over, who knows? Luckily, I had the chance to go to the theatres one last time, and it was for a film that made my heart sing. I practically skipped into my auditorium and into my seat when I saw The Broken Hearts Gallery. On paper, it seems no different to any number of romantic-comedies with quirky leads who find love in an unexpected (yet totally obvious) man. However, this film is not so inconsequential as others might perceive it to be. Geraldine Viswanathan stars in this delightfully cute and sweet tale of a headstrong art curator who may have a few things she needs to work on.

Watching Viswanathan be absolutely amazing and carefree as a visible brown-skinned woman is something I rarely get to see in this genre. Often a woman like her would be the best friend, the rival, or some other minor role to the protagonist’s narrative. This time, that wasn’t the case, and it was this minor change paired with being a truly great movie that made all the difference in the world to me. I am so glad I had the chance to see this on the big screen.

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (2020)

A still from 'Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga'. A man and woman (played by Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams) are standing back-to-back and singing with their arms raised high.
Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams in Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (2020)

Carmen Paddock

Will Ferrell’s Netflix comedy arrived at the perfect time; with the necessary, devastating cancellation of the real Eurovision Song Contest during the pandemic, its unabashed joy just about fills the hole left behind. The film is a heartfelt, almost embarrassingly sincere ode to the camp and creativity that make Eurovision so special among (inter)national music competitions, but includes enough fantasy that it feels like a loving tribute rather than a replacement. Pyrotechnics, power ballads, and the infamous hamster wheel are included in their most bombastic forms, with Graham Norton’s snarky commentary adding cosy familiarity for the UK viewers. Additionally, the plot’s over-the-top backstage machinations feel like an acknowledgement that nothing but the most fantastical and ridiculous will respect the annual event’s magic. Perhaps the film runs a bit long and has a few too many subplots, but its enjoyment of its alternate reality (and alternate geography of Edinburgh) delivers all the escapism with minimal longing for normalcy – there is certainly no place for normal in this world.

I watched Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga twice in two days this summer, the second via Netflix Party with some friends with whom I’ve watched the real thing in years past. For those two hours, we shared our laughter and celebration in real time, finding a shared experience in a year of isolation. And both times, I wept tears of joy at the ‘Song-a-Long’ – Ferrell and company’s imagining of the contestants’ pre-show party, featuring the film’s cast and real Eurovision winners from the past decade. I am still unconvinced a less cynical moment exists on film.

Cabaret (1972)

A still from 'Cabaret'. A woman and a man (played by Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey) are wearing 1920s party outfits and holding gold coins.
Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey in Cabaret (1972)

Carmen Paddock

If musicals are the ultimate escape from the “real” world, Bob Fosse’s 1972 version of Kander and Ebb’s show deconstructs the ever-seductive line between fantasy and reality. Cabaret is tied together by Joel Grey’s Emcee, who comments on the complicated relationship between showgirl and wannabe actress Sally Bowles (Liza Minelli) and struggling writer turned English teacher Brian Roberts (Michael York) as well as on the disintegration of Weimar Germany under the rising Nazi party. Brian makes it out of Berlin, but there is not much hope as this curtain falls.

Comforting? Perhaps not on paper. But Cabaret is a film I return to again and again when the world makes no sense. 2020 has been loss upon loss, and there are few periods in which I’ve felt as helpless or directionless. There is a strange solace in watching other people as ill equipped as me deal with their political and private worlds collapsing. And throughout, Sally is irrepressible. Minelli might not convey her canonical lack of talent – she’s too bright a star to convince us that she’s anything less than a triple threat – but it is just another layer in the fantasy she holds together almost single-handedly. As she belts out the title song, she lends it no irony or self-deception, finding some small yet genuine triumph amidst tragedy. Some days, that’s all we can do.

Onward (2020)

A still from 'Onward' (animated). A blue human looking creature with big hair and long pointy ears is staring longingly at an old radio.
Onward (2020)

Kacy Hogg

I don’t find it surprising that Disney makes up the majority of my comfort films: they’ve got the formula for escapism down pat. I knew I would enjoy this film before I even saw it and when I finally did, I wasn’t expecting it to strike as big of a chord inside me, but it did. Probably, because it reminded me of my sister, my best friend. Tom Holland’s Ian, and Chris Pratt’s Barley Lightfoot go on the quest of a lifetime, learning more about themselves and each other than they ever knew, despite growing up together. Every day, I uncover something new about my twin – like just how much she puts up with me forcing her to watch Disney movies. Onward was not only chalked full of a unique flavour of wonder and insightfulness that’s startlingly relevant to today’s world, but I felt like I was viewing a cut of a film made just for the two of us. We always talk about going on adventures ourselves one day, about getting into mischief and seeing the sights.

Despite quarantine, Onward gave us a piece of happiness. I’ve always believed we gravitate towards certain characters because they remind us of ourselves, and that’s exactly what happened with Barley. I, like he, am the fantasy-obsessed, clumsy, weird, sometimes oblivious older sibling. Ian, like my sister, is our smaller, cleverer counterpart. We balance each other out. Things would be incomplete if they were missing. So, that’s why this work is one of my comfort films: it made me appreciate who I have and gave me a much-needed glimpse of magic. 

The Mummy (1999)

A still from 'The Mummy'. Two men and a woman (played by Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, and John Hannah) are holding guns and old torches.
The cast of The Mummy (1999)

Kacy Hogg

In many cases, you find films you love through word of mouth, reading its literary predecessor or completely by accident. And sometimes, those films find you. I didn’t know exactly what I was in for when I first watched The Mummy, except that I liked Brendan Fraser because I’d grown up watching his later films. Now, I can practically recite every line by heart, and if it’s on T.V., I have to drop everything and watch it from beginning to end. Not only does this film speak to the huge mythology nerd inside me, but the story is just genuinely fun, and it’s supported by a talented cast, convincing visual effects (it was made in the 90s, after all) and dozens of memorable scenes. It’s as entertaining to watch as it is jam-packed with adventure. I mean, who hasn’t dreamed of traversing uncharted lands in search of treasure and falling in love with both Rick O’Connell and Evie Carnahan?

I think another aspect that makes this film so comforting to me, was that I first discovered it with my family. Since then, I’ve definitely watched it enough times to leave them all rolling their eyes, thinking not this film again. Sometimes, what’s familiar can feel safe, can feel more homely than always searching for something new; the same goes for movies. Ever since that first splendid viewing, more than a decade ago, the film hasn’t lost a single bit of its charm; I purposefully watch it multiple times a year. So, I don’t think The Mummy will be losing its spot on my list of comfort films any time soon.

Our Little Sister (2015)

A still from 'Our Little Sister'. A young girl (played by Suzu Hirose) is wearing a Japanese school girl outfit and staring afar.
Suzu Hirose in Our Little Sister (2015)

Fatima Sheriff

After their estranged father passes away, three sisters adopt their step-sister Suzu (Suzu Hirose). As she settles into their beautiful old house, the story meanders delicately and peacefully through the titular sister’s coming of age and the careful navigation of their parental trauma. Kore-eda’s careful storytelling establishes each sister’s distinct personality: Sachi, incredibly serious (Haruka Ayase), Yoshino (Masami Nagasawa), emotional and dramatic, Chika (Kaho), joyful and quirky. It’s a dynamic that brings about both the classic sisterly chatter which makes it so homely and the open-hearted, healing conversations that bring tears to my eyes. 

For me, Our Little Sister is about making the most of the world while you’re in it. One sees the legacy of the absent father through the meals he made for his daughter and the treks he took her on, and in her new home there are so many delicious family meals and cafe lunches. The Japanese title Umimachi Diary means Seaside Town Diary and it lives up to its name. The stunning cinematography captures the seasons changing, including a Sakura sequence and a scene that makes fireworks joyful again, with Yoko Kanno’s uplifting soundtrack adding further magic to the landscape. It’s a supremely calming and lovely cinematic experience that I’ve shared with friends and family to escape lockdown. 

Little Women (2019)

A still from 'Little Women'. Four young women (played by Emma Watson, Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, and Eliza Scanlen) are embracing each other and smiling.
The cast of Little Women (2019)

Fatima Sheriff

Nothing but respect for my Best Adapted Screenplay! (And Best Director if justice prevailed in the Oscars!) It takes a gift to take a story so well-loved and add such a distinctive spin on it and for someone who loves to delve into literary adaptations, it set the bar so high. What to say that hasn’t already been said? Having read the book in lockdown, it distils the essence of these iconic  but Gerwig’s alternating timelines makes it that much more emotionally potent. The slow motion sequences take my breath away, and it has gotten to the point where I can hear a piece of the soundtrack and so easily imagine the scene it plays in. I also saw it on a windy summer night in an outdoor cinema, which gave me chills during the beach scene with Jo and Beth in a literal and metaphorical sense. 

The line deliveries, especially Florence Pugh’s Amy, are so precise in their comedy and their commentary, the overlapping dialogue so aptly brings the noisy household to life and the attention to detail in the script makes each of the sisters so layered and relatable. Deciding which sister I’m most like led to a lot of lockdown introspection. Dwelling on the difference between being loved and in love during lockdown helped me come to the realisation that I didn’t want to be engaged half-heartedly, no matter how much I wanted it to work. Soon after my sister married a teacher so the parallels continued! Film of my year!

10 Things I Hate About You (1999)

A still from '10 Things I Hate About You'. A young man and woman (played by Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles) are talking to each other at a parking lot.
Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles in 10 Things I Hate About You (1999)

Bethany Gemmell

Hot on the heels of the ‘90s trend of teen movies based on classic literature, 1999’s 10 Things I Hate About You incorporates and improves upon the tentpoles of its genre. Rooted in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, the film has a contemporary, self-aware spirit that teen movies fail to capture twenty years later after its release. With such a combination, this modestly reviewed romcom upon its release has proved itself timeless. Avoiding Breakfast Club-like pitfalls of protagonist Kat Stratford’s (Julia Stiles) social outcast status with an earnest portrayal of rebellion against everyday high school sexual politics. The film tames Kat’s frustrations with a worthy opponent, a delightful use of the fake-dating, enemies-to-lovers tropes in the form of her romance with Patrick Verona (Heath Ledger).

Overflowing with memorable characters and insanely quotable one-liners, 10 Things I Hate About You cleverly utilises its classical structure to add a comforting warmth to the coldness of teenage life. A love letter to the movie romances that came before it, the film fondly modernises the typical rom-com tropes in a manner that revives their qualities without making them dated. Teamed with an equally charming cast to match its script, the film shines with glimmers of Hollywood’s brightest stars to come, particularly of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and future Oscar winner Heath Ledger.

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

A still from 'Spider-Man: Homecoming'. Two teenage boys (played by Jacob Batalon and Tom Holland) are standing in the hallway of a high school.
Jacob Batalon and Tom Holland in Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

Bethany Gemmell

Before its release, Spider-Man: Homecoming was the film that virtually no one wanted to see. The third cinematic version of spider-man in fifteen years, with the most recent Andrew Garfield franchise’s last outing just two years before Tom Holland’s first. Much like what Mickey Mouse is to Disney, Spider-Man is the mascot of the Marvel franchise, an emblem for the childhood nostalgia of many. In his somewhat brief first appearance in Captain America: Civil War, Tom Holland quickly extinguished the anger and anxieties that met his casting. With unparalleled boyish charm in his younger iteration of Peter Parker, Holland helped his first feature-length adventure create a world of its own within the trappings of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

A smaller-scale mission in the middle of the Bronx for the young Peter Parker, Spider-Man: Homecoming gives the typical spider bite origin story a much-needed facelift. With a delightful, diverse supporting cast of fresh faces, ranging from Zendaya’s MJ to Jacob Batalon’s Ned, the revamped characterisations feels not like a reboot, but something completely original. Even in the face of the Starkification of his friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man persona and the villainy of Michael Keaton’s vulture, creating a dilemma over his own powers and ambitions, comfort can be found in the unwavering wholesomeness of Holland’s portrayal. Whether you’re a seasoned Spidey fan or an interested newcomer, it will quickly become obvious why fans and actors from previous outings want to be part of this new adventure.

An American Pickle (2020)

A still from 'An American Pickle'. A black and white photo shows a woman and man (played by Sarah Snook and Seth Rogan) staring seriously at the camera.
Sarah Snook and Seth Rogan in An American Pickle (2020)

Mia Garfield

This is perhaps the only film my family and I saw in the cinema this year, and it really resonated with me. The trailer depicts it as a light hearted comedy with two Seth Rogans, and it could have been, but instead it really dug into exploring what it means to be the descendent of European Jewish people who fled their country. You know you are Jewish, but you don’t know much about it, you don’t speak much Hebrew or Yiddish, and you don’t really feel like a citizen of the country in which you live.

While the concept may seem outlandish; a man falls into a vat of pickle juice and is perfectly preserved until he awakens a century later, though there is far more to it. Herschel Greenbaum not only wants to find his family, he wants to help his descendent live the life he never could. As the film unfolds new, deeper layers are revealed and it transforms from a slightly absurd comedy to a heartfelt drama. Casting Seth Rogan as Herschel and Ben Greenbaum was a stroke of genius, and it was so refreshing to see him in a serious role. A scene where Ben participates in a Jewish burial rite for the first time brought every family member to tears. In the centre of the maelstrom of 2020 this film brought my family together, which is something we needed. It is a well written, heartfelt piece about coming home no matter how far you have strayed.

The Truman Show (1998)

A still from 'The Truman Show'. A man and woman (played by Jim Carrey and Laura Linney) are wearing 1950s clothes and facing each other.
Jim Carrey and Laura Linney in The Truman Show (1998)

Mia Garfield

This is a truly singular film. One night I was exhausted and I went to bed and I curled up under the covers with my iPad and scrolled through Netflix. I just did not want to be absorbing anything going on in the world, and I selected this film. Over the course of the next few days I rewatched it and was just utterly blown away. I had forgotten the sheer brilliance of the film, and why it is on all the ‘Must Watch Lists’. Not for it’s prediction about our obsession with reality TV or our constant recording of our lives. Not for any of the reasons people praise it, but because the filmmakers really, really poured their heart and soul into this film.

So often one can see unrealised potential in films. Incredible Production Design or brilliant Cinematography but the story and performances just fall flat. With The Truman Show you can feel how hard they worked on every aspect of the film and what makes it so iconic. It reminded me that films can be that good. That there are people willing to take the chance and believe in something unconventional, and that cinema is not done. And that capital G “good” films do not always have to leave you depressed. This year was the easiest year to feel cynical about one’s creative future, but this film lit a fire in my heart and reminded me that films are magical.

Metropolitan (1990)

A still from 'Metropolitan'. A young woman and man (played by Allison Rutledge-Parisi and Edward Clements) are sitting down by a Christmas tree and wearing formal attire.
Allison Rutledge-Parisi and Edward Clements in Metropolitan (1990)

Nathasha Orlando Kappler

Having previously enjoyed The Last Days of Disco, and Jane Austen adaptation Love And Friendship, I was eager to catch Whit Stillman’s directorial debut Metropolitan on Mubi earlier this year. Set in a sparkling, frosty Manhattan, middle-class socialist Tom Townsend (Edward Clements) begrudgingly accepts an invitation to a party hosted by the Sally Fowler Rat Pack at the height of debutante season. Christening themselves after the hostess whose lavish apartment is home to their soirées, the group of young, handsome Upper East Side socialites welcome Tom with a degree of fascination and suspicion. Tom, who considers himself a Fourierist, finds himself in the uneasy situation of having to debate his views on privilege and wealth with his yuppie peers all while accepting their hospitality and fine champagne.

After befriending Nick (played by Stillman regular Chris Eigeman), Tom soon comes to accept that he is a Rat Pack member, and while the group’s long, pseudo intellectual conversations often start out as polite and well-mannered, the complicated love rivalries within their tight-knit circle eventually lead to arguments in which no-one is safe from snide remarks and piercing observations on their character. Sound familiar? It’s no coincidence that Audrey (Carolyn Farina) – Tom’s secret admirer, is an ardent advocate of Mansfield Park. Tom’s moral stance on the bourgeoisie may contradict with his desire to be a part of it, and it’s this familiar predicament which makes Metropolitan an enthralling watch. After all, the divine decadence of satin dresses, pearl necklaces, and watching drama unfold among a group of friends on a Midwinter’s night certainly has its allure, and it made me oddly nostalgic for a social life I’ve never known.

Between The Lines (1977)

A still from 'Between The Lines'. A man and woman (played by John Heard and Lindsay Crouse) are sitting next to each other and laughing at photographs.
John Heard and Lindsay Crouse in Between The Lines (1977)

Nathasha Orlando Kappler

In Joan Micklin Silver’s workplace comedy, staff members of the Back Bay Mainline – an alternative Boston newspaper – undergo an identity crisis as rumours float around that their publication will be sold to a media mogul, and thus major cutbacks could ensue. The newspaper’s leading journalist Harry Lucas (John Heard) can’t help but reminisce about the Mainline at its heyday during the 1960s, when he and his colleagues (including a baby faced Jeff Goldblum) were still naive enough to believe their work could have a significant impact on the world. However as the team enter their thirties and hope to find financial stability, they’re met with the harsh reality that the counterculture of their youth is dying out, and so has the creative and professional fulfilment they once had.

During a six month lockdown period of little interaction with my friends, I leaned heavily on films that were rich with conversation and charismatic characters who enjoyed each other’s company, unshackled by the distractions of the impending digital age. So it was only inevitable that I’d fall in love with Silver’s work this year. Between The Lines had the sweet, 70s sitcom humour that I was yearning for, while cleverly observing the pitfalls of being a creative in an industry that often rewards success to those who are willing to adapt to the needs of an ever-changing market, or faced with the bleak scenario of sacrificing their integrity. From Hester Street to Crossing Delancey, each of Silver’s films radiate charm in their exploration of characters who allow their anxieties and pride get in the way of embracing new ventures – a life lesson that feels particularly relevant in these uncertain times. Thank you for the warmth your films bring Joan, you will be missed.

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