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Our Writing Interns Recommend Movies to Watch This Year

Updated: Feb 18, 2020

By Maliha Khan and Ayesha Mahmood

Part 1: Maliha's List

Maliha Khan | Dehli, India

This is my list of a few movies from the past decade that I felt were really good and couldn’t wait for others to watch.

Little Women (2019)

Based on the classic novel by Louisa May Alcott and my favourite book, – Little Women, this movie is one of the many adaptations of this literary jewel. The movie retains Alcott’s story outline, a tale about the March sisters - four young women each determined to live life on her own terms and their journey from childhood to womanhood. But Greta Gerwig boldly brings in another dimension: the ways in which women struggled to own their creative ambition and voices in a world that wanted to muffle them. The story is both timeless and timely. Together with the amazing cast of Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, portraying Jo, Meg, Amy, and Beth March, with Timothée Chalamet as their neighbor Laurie, Laura Dern as Marmee, and Meryl Streep as Aunt March, this movie is a must on every person’s list. This story and its characters have been my companions for years through the book and now to see Gerwig retell this timeless story is a delight. 

Marriage Story (2019)

The Oscar-nominated movie needs no introduction. The movie has been in the headlines and critically acclaimed. A stage director Charlie played by Adam Driver and his actor wife Nicole played by Scarlett Johanson struggle through a gruelling, coast-to-coast divorce that pushes them to their personal and creative extremes. We see this once-devoted couple tear themselves and each other apart. Marriage Story isn’t necessarily a tragedy about a relationship; it’s about the long legal process we call divorce and how it can poison whatever noble intentions the involved parties had about remaining amicable. 

The Farwell (2019)

This emotional film gives a unique insight about family in a different culture. Their familial bonds and dynamics intertwined with culture are explored with a light touch and a perceptive eye for detail in this delightful, semi-autobiographical family drama from writer and director Lulu Wang. 

Billi's family returns to China under the guise of a fake wedding to stealthily say goodbye to their beloved matriarch, Nai Nai, played by Zhao Shuzhen and the only person that doesn't know she only has a few weeks to live. The American tendency to freely share thoughts and feelings represented by Billi (played by Awkwafina), collides with the Chinese way of parcelling up emotions. 

Beautiful Boy (2018)

This very sensitive and tasteful movie is about the tragedy of drug addiction afflicting someone so young and “beautiful”. It is based on a set of memoirs: Beautiful Boy, by author and journalist David Sheff, his harrowing account of trying to help his son Nic battle crystal meth addiction, and Tweak – by Nic Sheff himself, about these same experiences. 

Beautiful Boy chronicles the heartbreaking and inspiring experience of survival, relapse, and recovery in a family coping with addiction over many years. With the amazing cast of Timothée Chalamet as Nic Sheff, Steve Carell as David Sheff and Maura Tierney as Karen Barbour, and the direction of Felix Van Groeningen, the movie is an emotionally engaging experience.

The Edge Of Seventeen (2016)

This movie is an honest peek into the lives of young people dealing with depression, loss, and social anxiety. This authentic depiction of an awkward, opinionated, angst-ridden teenager, Nadine, played by Hailee Stienfeld, figuring out life and the things around her turns this edgy high school comedy into a touching gem. The movie taps the mess of insecurities, swirling, unfocused surges of anger, and still manages to be disarmingly funny. It explores complex relationships that Nadine, the protagonist has with her mother played by Kyra Sedgwick, her teacher, Mr. Bruner, played by Woody Harrelson, her changing relationship with her best friend Krista played by Haley Lu Richardson, and her brother Darian. It also digs into Nadine’s social awkwardness and her interactions

with other teenagers. Kelly Fremon Craig’s debut is radiantly funny and perceptive.

Haider (2014)

This movie is very close to me as it comes from my homeland and tells our stories. Haider is an exciting retelling of Hamlet and a rare exception to the stereotypes and barely concealed propaganda Bollywood produced on Kashmir. The film’s popularity is explained by its authenticity — the handiwork of scriptwriter Basharat Peer, Kashmiri author and journalist who adapted William Shakespeare’s Hamlet to his hometown in the Kashmir of the 1990s. Haider has also borrowed many elements from Peer’s memoir, Curfewed Night, an account of growing up in conflict-ridden Kashmir. Vishal Bardhwaj’s direction combined with the storyline makes the movie experience absorbing.

Haider young Hamlet played by Shahid Kapoor, returns to Jammu and Kashmir when the state is bedevilled by a violent insurgency and sets out in search of his lost father through “the underbelly of a heavily militarized state", like thousands of men of his age once did. In Peer’s rendering Hamlet’s famous “To be, or not to be" soliloquy is turned into an artful reference to the sinister phenomenon of forced disappearances. The performance of Irrfan Khan is splendid. The ordinary street that I walked on every other day became magical as he transformed himself into the ghost of King Hamlet’s father.

Boyhood (2014)

Boyhood is an American coming-of-age drama film written and directed by Richard Linklater. 

It is an intimate epic: over 12 years, a beautiful time-lapse study of a boy from age five to 18. Boyhood depicts the childhood and adolescence of Mason Evans Jr. played by Ellar Coltrane as he grows up in Texas with divorced parents Oliva Evans and Mason Sr. played by Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke.  Richard Linklater's daughter Lorelei plays Mason's sister, Samantha. Production began in 2001and finished in 2013, with Linklater's goal to make a film about growing up.

The Theory of Everything (2014)

It was adapted by Anthony McCarten from the memoir Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen by Jane Hawking, which deals with her relationship with her ex-husband Stephen Hawking, his diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and his success in the field of physics. 

Stephen Hawking, an excellent astrophysics student working on his research, learns that he suffers from motor neuron disease, and has around two years to live. The movie explores the struggles of the physics genius. His academic and personal achievements parallel to his growing disease. Hawking’s life story is an inspiration and his journey a delight to watch. 

Julie and Julia (2009)

This movie deals with two women, from different times, living in different circumstances, yet united through their love for food and a developing passion for cooking. 

The Julie and Julia of the title are real-life women who never met. Julia Child, a major figure in introducing French cuisine to the American middle classes, found late fame as a prolific author of cookery books and a pioneer TV chef.  Julie Powell found early, less enduring fame in her 30s by writing a blog as she cooked her way through Child's most famous work, the 734-page Mastering the Art of French Cooking. 

Julia played by Meryl Streep is an interesting and humorous character and a delight to watch.  For Julie played by Amy Adams, Julia becomes a mother figure, an imaginary friend, and a source of inspiration. Throughout the movie two lives hang together and the experiences of their heroines placed alongside each other offer revelations about social and cultural change over the past 60 years, from the staid age of the telex and the manual typewriter to the ubiquity of the personal computer and the mobile phone.

Part 2: Ayesha's List

Ayesha Mahmood | Sargodha, Pakistan

Here are my suggestions for movies my readers should watch this year:

1. We All Cry Differently

This film is about the struggle of life that we all go through from time to time.

Specifically, it is about a girl, Ru Ji-Hye, who wants to go abroad for her higher education, but faces many difficulties before she can do so.

First of all, her mother doesn't have enough money to pay her fees. Secondly, she needs to find her father so that she can get her passport. As Ru tries to find out a way to go abroad, her mother and brother face their own difficulties.

2.  Canola

Canola is a family drama that shows the love, affection and care of a grandmother to her granddaughter, Hye Ji, who becomes missing and then is reunited with her after twelve years. She has changed a lot, due to the hardships she has faced during her years apart with her grandmother, and many of the neighbours complain that she is not the same Hye Ji.

However, her grandmother does not listen to them, and their relationship after being reunited develops and evolves throughout the film. The drama beautifully shows that we humans are not only attached by the relationship of blood but we are also attached by the bonding of love, care and consideration.

3. Wedding Dress

This movie shows the beautiful relationship between a mother and her daughter. Go Eun (the mother) a wedding dress designer, is suffering from terminal gastric cancer and wants her daughter So Ra to prepare for life without her. She wants So to make friends and become a ballet dancer, and tries to do all she can before she has to say goodbye. The film shows the struggles between Go's journey to fulfilling her wishes for her daughter and So's efforts to help her fulfill those wishes in secret.


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