Tom Jolliffe with a selection of 10 delightful films that can’t fail to brighten your day…
Well ladies and gents, it looks like we’re still in the midst of some kind of biblical meltdown. Between a virus that’s spread the world, to political discord, societal discord, things are bad and all the while every app we use is spying on us to send us tailored advertising that will make us waste our money. So, among the drudgery and uncertainty with everything, we could all do with cheering up. I’m going to offer up 10 films that will hook you in and ultimately leave you smiling.
One of the big hit world cinema films from the early part of this century, Amelie was a huge success. It’s always wonderful when a film not in the English language breaks in a big way in the English speaking countries, as it shows a willingness to accept something a bit different and to ‘endure’ the subtitles. Audiences were suitably rewarded by the effervescence and visual beauty of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s impossibly charming film. With many feel good films, the real skill is taking us through some complication in the story, putting our character(s) through some trialling moments, so that the happy ending just hits that little bit harder. Audrey Tautou is an absolute delight among a cast of renowned French actors. It’s funny, quirky, poignant and original.
Few directors managed to perfectly capture the simplicity of small town familial life like Yosujiro Ozu. Very simple human dynamics, predominantly focused on very human stories and nuance. Whilst Kurosawa, as an example, was perusing darker material with crime thrillers and Shakespearean styled (sometimes direct adaptations too) Samurai films, Ozu was about people at their core in the day to day. If Tokyo Story, his most iconic master work, was bittersweet, beautiful and insightful, Good Morning marks one of his most whimsical and overtly comedic films. There’s still wonderful observations on society (both exclusive to a changing Japan of the time, but also familial, coming of age elements that ring true across time and continents). Two young brothers become obsessed with the idea of having a TV and pester their parents. When said TV isn’t forthcoming they take a vow of silence to get their way, which in turn leads to an array of complications. It’s funny (there are running fart gags among other things), perfectly capturing childish endeavour at an age of discovering wilfulness. It’s really a complete delight.
My Neighbor Totoro
You can’t really have a list of delightful films and not have some Studio Ghibli. You could pick just about any, particularly from Hayao Miyazaki but I’ll go with My Neighbor Totoro. This beautifully animated fantasy adventure has all the sibling lead whimsy of young children (similar in fact to Ozu’s aforementioned film), running parallel with a very sensitive view on mortality, with their sick mother confined to a hospital. You could perhaps read their fantastical adventures with a giant and friendly creature, where there’s a clear distance between the kids and their parents (due to mum being sick and dad being preoccupied with the realities of that and work), as something allegorical, but ultimately this is still a film that skilfully blends childhood wonder and whimsy with some maturity. Like all of Miyazaki’s work, it’s exceptionally imaginative.
Crazy Rich Asians
I’m not generally a big fan of rom-coms, but the ones that strike a chord seem to be completely delightful, even at their most predictably manipulative. Crazy Rich Asians follows a distinct rom-com formula but adds a very distinct cultural spin for Western audiences. Constance Wu and Henry Golding play a young couple a year into a blossoming relationship. When he’s invited to a family wedding he invites her to come along as the ideal moment to meet his mother (And the rest of the family). She must also deal with the discovery that her boyfriend is from an exceptionally rich family, and virtually royalty in his Singapore homeland. Of course prospective mom-in-law doesn’t like her. Nick’s mother is a staunch traditionalist, and classist to boot. The idea of her son marrying an Asian-American (emphasis in her mom’s mind very much on the ‘American’ part) doesn’t sit right with her. Among this hope for Rachel (Wu) to be accepted by her boyfriends family with that recognisable rom-com trope, we’ve got the visual resplendence of Singapore on display among an array of opulent and wonderfully dressed surroundings. It’s a sensationally designed movie on all costume and scenic fronts. The cast are wall to wall wonderful with Wu and Golding an endearing leading couple, and Awkwafina in fine scene stealing form. It’s Michelle Yeoh who steals the whole show though as the icy mother-in-law, who has a lot of complexity from her own relationship with her own mother-in-law. Bright, colourful, funny, moving and endearing.
Plane’s Trains and Automobiles
This seasonal film absolutely, never, ever…ever…fails to brighten my mood. I watch it at least once a year, and I’ve found myself increasingly locking in my viewings around that Thanksgiving period, despite the fact I’m British and don’t celebrate Thanksgiving. Planes, Trains is an all time great. It’s wacky, hilarious, touching and charming. Steve Martin is at the top of his game, as is the late great John Candy. There are so many classic moments that still make me laugh till it hurts, and moments in the film, particularly with Candy as the heart and soul of the picture, that will hit you right in the feels.
There have been some great feel good films centred around aspiring musicians in Dublin. I could easily have picked the late great Alan Parkers, Commitments, or John Carney’s Once. Sticking with John Carney though, I’m gonna offer up Sing Street. This one was a very pleasant surprise when it hit the scene a few years ago. It’s set against the backdrop of economic downturn in 80’s Dublin, as a Private School boy has to get moved to a tough inner city school. There, in a struggle to find his identity, he starts a band, meets a girl, and all that jazz. Like Once, Carney wonderfully balances drama, laughs and throws in a stellar soundtrack. This really is the kind of film that warms the cockles.
There’s a number of wonderful, escapist fantasy films that could have been included. The Wizard of Oz for example, but lets look at a film partly inspired by Dorothy’s adventure in Oz. Labyrinth an enduring cult favourite, loaded with hidden depths and a mature underbelly, is still on surface a riotous, beautifully realised fantasy with a wondrous hand made feeling to everything. From the sets to the array of puppeted creatures, an entire world is created on screen. Jennifer Connelly is brilliant here, playing the role with a subtlety belying her young age at the time. David Bowie exudes charisma and magnetism, whilst revelling in playing a swaggering villain. Between the creatures, the songs and the hilarious python-esque and absurdist humour, Labyrinth is the epitome of cinematic delight.
Groundhog Day as a concept has been repeated many times, through an array of genres. However this iconic, Bill Murray classic remains the ultimate. Groundhog Day is yet another (like Planes, Trains) that is so easy to watch and the appeal never wanes. Every gag still lands, and the arc of Murray’s sardonic, embittered weatherman as he slowly mellows and learns humility, is fantastically realised. Murray is at the top of his game here, both comedically and dramatically. It’s just a film that’s easy to love, and as easy to watch as they come. If you don’t grin from ear to ear watching Groundhog Dog, you must be living some kind of miserable groundhog day existence yourself.
I mean we need some Pixar right? This could have been just about any of them. Inside Out is one in a long line of home runs and one of the strongest works from the company. As per, it’s loaded with imagination, and a skilful mix of belly laughs and tear-jerking moments. We grow to care about characters, and Pixar doesn’t shy away from the subject of death. Inside Out beneath the colourful adventure story is a subtle exploration of growing up and the complexity of dealing with strong and conflicting emotions.
Some Like It Hot
Some Like It Hot. Oft listed as one of the finest comedies ever made, this breezy romp is a pitch perfect example of finding a winning formula. Everything comes together beautifully with the two fleeing male musicians on the run for their life, hiding out as women in an all female band. Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon and the magnetic Marilyn Monroe have amazing chemistry and it’s a film that is endlessly entertaining which. like the most timeless of comedies, feels so effortless. Rightfully considered a classic, it’s a film that’s just about one of the most delightful, feel good films ever made.
What’s the most delightful film you’ve seen? Let us know on our social channels @flickeringmyth.
Tom Jolliffe is an award winning screenwriter and passionate cinephile. He has a number of films out on DVD/VOD around the world and several releases due in 2020/21, including The Witches Of Amityville (starring Emmy winner, Kira Reed Lorsch), War of The Worlds: The Attack and the star studded action films, Renegades (Lee Majors, Billy Murray) and Crackdown. Find more info at the best personal site you’ll ever see…https://www.instagram.com/jolliffeproductions/