Part One: Netflix Movie Recommendations

I am taking a slight diversion here, taking a route different from the roads I normally travel with this blog and doing a few movie recommendations! Or rather movies specifically on Netflix. I signed up for the streaming service late last year, only for one-month (free, of course) and to watch one movie I really wanted to watch. My plan did not quite go according to plan. Netflix did not stream said movie and, nearly a year on and my budget now recording a permanent £6.99 next to Netflix, I am hooked.

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Still, the ride is a good one and, along the way, I have come across some gems, which I would like to share should there be any that may interest others. Below are the first six (of twelve) of my favourite movies that I have watched thus far, with a brief introduction to the storyline and a short thought on why I liked it (six more will follow in the coming weeks). Two warnings: one, though I have endeavoured not to, there may be the hint of a spoiler; two, as you will see, the genres included are fairly narrow, so what is listed may not be to everyone’s taste.

If you haven’t seen any of those listed, I hope there maybe something new to keep you occupied for an hour or two. Also, I am always on the look-out for new titles to watch, so do let me know your own recommendations.

Without further ado and in no particular order…

Once More

There is some confusion over the title for this movie. Initially it was released as The Magic of Belle Isle, but it was later changed to Once More. This gentle and heartwarming movie follows the summertime retreat of Monte Wildhorn (Morgan Freeman), the once legendary novelist, whose struggle with alcoholism since his wife died has halted his passion for writing. That is until he meets single mum, Charlotte (Virginia Madsen), and her three daughters.

Early on, in one thread that weaves through the movie, the middle child, Finn, seeks lessons from Monte on the art of storytelling. Monte is initially reluctant, but what follows not only showcases the wonder of imagination, but also how relationships, even the most unlikely, can bring out the best in us. In one lovely scene, Monte, in a wheelchair following an accident, tells Finn that meeting her caused him to ‘dance in the moonlight’.

It is a comment symptomatic of the movie as a whole and it is difficult to not join him as the credits role.

Frances Ha

This was a movie that frequented many articles recommending what to watch on Netflix. Initially I was not taken in, largely because I was not so keen on its old-school look (exemplified by the whole picture being broadcast in black and white). After a further look at the reviews, I was lured in and I hit ‘Play’. It is a charming and funny offering which tells the story of the young and somewhat eccentric Frances Halladay (Greta Gerwig) as she seeks some direction in life.

It is a movie that will not be to everyone’s taste. Indeed, there was one point where I was tempted to switch it off, but I am glad I persisted. The appeal to me as the storyline unfolded was Frances’ character. She is kind, quirky and oftentimes unconventional and awkward, which did not always endear her to others, but despite what people thought – together with setbacks she encountered along the way – she never gave up or held back.

She was always Frances. For that I had much to admire and learn.

Short Term 12

This movie was highly recommended by a friend. In fact, it is highly recommended by a lot of people. The movie focuses on a group facility for troubled teenagers under the supervision of Grace (Brie Larson), a young counsellor who struggles with the demands of leading the centre whilst seeking to move on from her own difficult past. The arrival of one young girl to the facility, Jayden, proves to be significant for both Jayden and Grace, with the two forming a strong bond as their respective stories unfold.

It is sombre watch at times, with the movie vividly and expertly portraying the extent to which abuse can cause long-lasting damage to a person’s life. For many, sharing about what has happened to them in the past is simply too hard, requiring time, bucketfuls of courage and the assurance that those you talk to can be trusted. What often helps along this journey, as Short Term 12 shows, is finding someone who hears your story and says, ‘Me too.’

Me too. Two simple words which can powerfully usher in both a friendship and a new dawn.

God Help the Girl

This independent offering by Stuart Murdock, lead singer of Belle and Sebastian, is a delight. Set in Glasgow, Scotland, this musical feature follows the life of young Eve, who escapes hospital (where she is being treated for anorexia nervosa) to pursue her dream of becoming a musician. Along the way she builds a friendship and band with aspiring songwriter, James, and guitar student, Cassie.

Again, this won’t be to everyone’s taste. Being very much a music fan, I personally enjoyed the way in which music united these three different but equally endearing characters. They brought out the best in each other – and not just in respect of music. In doing so, they filled their summertime with song and laughter; memories that would last a lifetime. Upon the movie finishing, I immediately searched for its quirky and catchy soundtrack.

Indeed, quirky and catchy seems appropriate for the whole film, certainly for me. Wonderfully different and not without leaving a welcome impression.

Tracks

This is based on the true story of Robyn Davidson, who trekked the 1,700 miles from Alice Springs to the coast of the Indian Ocean. It is a remarkable story and one I was totally unaware of until I sat down to watch the movie. Having travelled alone on occasion, I empathised with Robyn’s determination to trek alone and raised a smile at her reticent response to the offer from a friend to join her on the first part of the trek. I’ve had similar conversations, though she was a lot more blunt!

As the movie unfolded, though, it became clear that Robyn would need the help of others more than she perhaps first realised and wanted. The thread common to all help was a sensitivity to Robyn’s dream and a determination to do their part in making it happen. These individuals sometimes had to impress on Robyn the need for help – to avoid difficulty and even death – but they did so in a way that honoured her wish to complete the journey and still do so, for the most part, on her own.

One helper was the lovely Mr Eddie, an Aborigine who journeyed with Robyn for three weeks. Robyn later concluded: ‘I still think of our three weeks together on the trail as the heart of my entire journey.’ That, for me, echoes the message that has stayed with me having watched the movie: we need each other.

The Odd Life of Timothy Green

This fantasy comedy-drama is a beautiful watch. The story, told from the perspective of Cindy (Jennifer Garner) and Jim Green (Joel Edgerton) as they seek to adopt a child, begins with the couple being told by doctors that they are unable to conceive. Following this news, the two write down on slips of notepad what their ideal child would look like. They place the notes inside a wooden box and bury it in the garden. After a sudden thunderstorm, a young and very dirty boy called Timothy, characteristic of all their wishes, appears in their house. Not only that, the young boy has one or two leaves growing on him. Odd, indeed.

The unfolding story is captivating and incredibly touching, with plenty of moments that bring a smile. I liked this movie because it reminded me again of three things. One, the usefulness and charm of a writing with a pencil. No kidding. Two, giving to people is a beautiful thing. And three, encouragement – hearing and knowing that others really believe in you – is an immensely powerful thing. It is the perfect movie to watch one afternoon if it is raining outside or you are feeling under the weather. It will lift you.

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