Cuddling up with a good movie is assuredly one of the most comforting little things in life. Luckily for us, there are plenty of films out there that make it easier for viewers to find beauty in everyday life, featuring simple day-to-day activities and the most mundane of actions — whether these are doing good deeds, such as lending a helping hand to those in need, or simply being contemplative, and ultimately appreciative, of the astonishing world around us.
In this list, we gather a few flicks that will encourage movie enthusiasts to look at the world in a more positive light and induce them to reflect on how rare and beautiful it is to simply exist. From Before Sunrise to Me, Earl and the Dying Girl, here are some of the most poetic slice-of-life films that are just as about nothing as they are about everything.
‘Before Sunrise’ (1995)
This beautifully directed movie focuses on Celine’s (Julie Delpy) and Jesse’s (Ethan Hawke), two young travellers who embark journey together after meeting on the train by chance. Viewers witness these characters’ relationship flourish as they go from complete strangers to passionate lovers in the course of 12 romantic hours spent together in Vienna, Austria.
The first film of the Before Trilogy, preceding Before Sunset and Before Midnight, is undoubtedly one of those movies that will make you reflect on the pleasurable and simple things in life, including sharing interests, different opinions and views in life during deep conversations with strangers. An impactful “no plot, just vibes” film, Richard Linklater‘s iconic Before Sunrise endures as a romantic favorite — the perfect watch for those who aren’t into clichés but still enjoy watching a good love story.
This french must-see is all about practicing kindness and spreading positivity. Following the titular character Amélie, fondly played by Audrey Tanot, Amélie (French: Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain) serves as an outlook into the life of a shy and slightly naive waitress in a Montmartre café. During this heartwarming film, Amélie goes on a quest to make others happy and lends a helping hand whenever she gets the chance.
There is nothing but good things to say about Jean-Pierre Jeunet‘s 2001 feature film, but what stands out the most — apart from the gorgeous cinematography and wonderful soundtrack — is the message it sends. Among all things that it does marvelously, Amélie highlights how important it is to be appreciative of every little thing in life.
‘The Florida Project’ (2017)
With a dreamy pastel color pallette and impeccable acting, The Florida Project is just as good as everyone tells you it is. This unconventional coming-of-age follows both Moonee, a precocious six-year-old brought to life by Brooklynn Prince, and her rebellious teen mom, Halley (Bria Vinaite), with whom she shares a caring bond.
Living in the shadows of Walt Disney World, little Moonee is more mature than most kids her age. Nevertheless, she chooses to navigate through life naively, doing silly kid stuff and coming home to a budget motel every night. With its share of both sad and upbeat moments, this very humane A24 drama features genuine, flawed, three-dimensional characters and gives voice to those who struggle with their anxieties. All in all, The Florida Project is a truly unique film that’s remarkable enough to change the way we perceive the people around us.
‘Lost in Translation’ (2003)
One of the most memorable things about Sofia Coppola‘s gorgeous Lost in Translation is its location. In what feels like the filmmaker’s love letter to Tokyo, the beloved city where Coppola spent a vast amount of time in her 20s finding people and places that resonated with her, Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray play Charlotte and Bob. The two characters bond over feelings of loneliness and ultimately share a good time together wandering around the city.
Tackling themes of isolation, alienation, and existential angst following both outsiders as they explore new places and enjoy each other’s company, this entertaining movie shines a light on unexpected bonds and human connection while perfectly capturing the uneasy feeling of trying to find your place in a world and seemingly not belonging anywhere.
Chloé Zhao Academy Award winner for Best Picture is based on a book of the same name about real-life nomads by author Jessica Bruder. Due to the Great Recession, a woman in her sixties who has nothing to lose embarks on a journey through the American West. Featuring beautiful landscapes and superb acting, the film which stars the talented Frances McDormand is gentle and compelling throughout.
Although some may consider it a bland and dry film, there is actually a lot to learn from Nomadland — with emotion at its center, Zhao’s film brings the saying “home is where the heart is” to a whole another level. Depicting the failed American dream, this critically-acclaimed movie is thought-provoking and mediative as it showcases people on the road who try to make the best of what life has to offer.
‘Frances Ha’ (2012)
Promising director Greta Gerwig is the main star in this Noah Baumbach American black and white dramedy. Centering around 27-year-old aspiring dancer Frances and her passion for dancing, Frances Ha explores what it feels like to throw yourself into your dreams fully while doing your best in trying to pursue them.
The bumpy road of self-discovery and self-development is never easy; yet, Frances Ha excels in finding beauty in it. Shining a positive light on the ups and downs of finding your place in the world, this tender film explores the never-ending journey of growth and provides viewers with tons of relatable quotes.
One of the best sci-fi films out there, Spike Jonze‘s Her is in a league of its own; not only does it deliver a highly innovative plot, but also sends thought-provoking powerful messages. Set in a futuristic scenario, the film follows Joaquin Phoenix‘s sad and lonely Theodore, who leads a highly monotonous life after a major heartbreak. Everything changes when he meets Samantha, an operating system voiced by Scarlett Johansson.
Even if it features a very bittersweet ending, Her is a wonderfully scripted, intelligent movie that analyzes the what-ifs of a connection between a highly advanced operating system and real people, questioning human dependence on digital tools throughout. On top of that, it also serves as a beautiful and touching study of loneliness and the importance of letting go of people, not because you don’t love them but because you do.
Shoplifters (Japanese: Manbiki kazoku) is a highly praised Japanese drama revolving around a couple stuck with part-time jobs which do not suffice in covering all their expenses. Because of this, they turn to shoplifting to make ends meet with the aid of the younger and older of the household. To make things even more dramatic, the family decides to take a homeless little girl in after the son runs into her.
Apart from brilliantly reflecting on a broken economic system, Hirokazu Koreeda‘s social commentary also tackles moving topics, including found families, questioning what truly makes one and showcasing that it’s not about the people you share blood ties with but rather those you choose.
‘The Worst Person in the World’ (2021)
2021’s The Worst Person in the World (Norwegian: Verdens verste menneske) won praise after its release, and for good reason. This slice-of-life type of film invites viewers to sneak peek into Julie’s (Renate Reinsve) life, a young woman who’s 29 going on 30, who does her best to navigate through love and career.
Admittedly, Julie’s life undergoes a wild turn of events near the end of the film. Nevertheless, much like Frances Ha does, Joachim Trier‘s movie beautifully highlights the beauty in finding yourself, embracing the most realistic version of you, and coming to terms with your own flaws and insecurities. It also sends out the message that it’s okay not to find meaning in everything.
‘Me and Earl and the Dying Girl’ (2015)
Both hilarious and original, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a 2015 coming-of-age story centering around three friends: the protagonist Greg (Thomas Mann), Earl (RJ Cyler), and a girl who has leukemia and is named Rachel (Olivia Cooke), whom his mother forces him to befriend.
Favoring friendship over everything, this deeply engaging Alfonso Gomez-Rejon film deals with love and loss as it shines a light on how difficult it can be to make friends sometimes and how unlikely connections are usually the best. Although heartbreaking, this coming-of-age is heart-warming all the same and depicts how much of a role empathy should play in our daily lives.
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