Koonagi

Koonagi's World

Personal Blog of Eric J. Kuhns

5 Movies That Changed Me.

It's been a REALLY long time since I made a list article or "listicle".  Movies seem like a good topic and I thought it was about time (no pun intended from my first film choice) that I put an article like this one out.  It seems to me that some movies just present themselves at times in life when you need them most. Other times, they show up and enter your psyche in a way you hadn't planned and at times, weren't mentally prepared for.  

Today, I'd like to talk about five movies that I've watched as an adult that changed me. These particular cinematic trips affected me in a way that no other stories on screen have at very particular times in my life. I'm excluding documentaries from this list because I want to focus on fiction. Let's dive in.   

1. About Time

 Photo courtesy of  Sami Naik

Photo courtesy of Sami Naik

I saw About Time for free through a company that hypes upcoming movies and allows you to see them earlier than most, though the seating is never ideal. It's a beautiful film about love and loss, but not in a way that most romantic comedies tread. If you haven't seen the film, you may want to skip to my second movie pick, as I'm about to talk about one of the plot reveals.

About Time is about a family where all the men can secretly travel in time and how a young man deals with the knowledge of this and how he uses that gift. It may sound cheesy, but the film is done in a fantastic way. Because this revolves around his father telling him about this "power", the father-son relationship unfolds before us in a really wonderful way. I instantly connected to the characters as I love my own father very much and we're close as well.

Later in the film, the protagonist finds that his father has terminal cancer. Rules around the movie's time travel are explained in a way that makes it so neither of them can change this grim outcome. This movie forced me to confront my own father's mortality and how I might deal with it when that frightful day arrives. I'm not ashamed to admit that I found myself crying a few times in this film. It all just felt so real.

I found myself connecting to it in other ways too, like the way the main character's relationship evolves throughout the film. Besides the prospect of having children, everything else is very much like my current relationship. One of my favorite quotes from the film is a saying I lived by when I was single and it certainly applied to Tiff, my fiancee, when I met her and our relationship matured. 

I’d only give one piece of advice to anyone marrying. We’re all quite similar in the end. We all get old and tell the same tales too many times. But try and marry someone kind [...]
— Bill Nighy character

I actually wrote about About Time (I apologize for the word-play redundancy) a while back, which is why I put this movie first on the list. I could reiterate and expand its meaning to me and move forward. You can read that HERE if you're interested.

2. Albatross

 Photo courtesy of the  New York Times

Photo courtesy of the New York Times

If you google "Albatross film" you'll probably get a documentary about birds, however the movie I'm referring to is a British coming-of-age tale from 2011. Here's a brief synopsis of the film from Wikipedia:

The rebellious teenage dropout, Emelia Conan Doyle, believes herself to be a descendant of Arthur Conan Doyle. She takes on a job as a cleaner in a seaside hotel owned by Jonathan Fischer. Jonathan is a writer from Germany who has struggled with writer’s block since his successful first novel, The Cliff House, was published 21 years before. He lives in the hotel with his wife Joa and two daughters, Beth, 17, and Posy, 6. Jonathan is constantly sequestered in the attic working on his writing, leaving the hotel to be run by Joa. Their marriage is stormy as Joa is unhappy about Jonathan’s lack of success in his profession and his disconnected parenting. Meanwhile, Emelia has lived with her grandparents since her mother committed suicide.
— Wikipedia

The film's main character, Emelia, finds herself seduced by Jonathon and an affair occurs. The affair isn't what I connected to however, but rather the act of Emelia being young and not knowing where she fit in, like me. At the time, I watched this film on a laptop sitting on my bare legs atop a mattress surrounded by boxes. A week or less from then, I was to move out for the first time and was filled with depression and excitement.

I was in a very strange head space at the time. This movie added to that sensitivity, but also made me feel like maybe I could make it as a writer after all. Or maybe I merely could make it in life. I'm not sure what I meant by "making it" then and I probably still don't. Either way, the movie caused me to embrace some inner stuff I'm not sure I was ready to confront. It's quite hard to describe, but I'll never forget Albatross and the scene/feelings I attach to it in my memories of the film.

3. The Fountain

 Photo courtesy of The Fountain's trailer on YouTube

Photo courtesy of The Fountain's trailer on YouTube

The Fountain was my introduction to the films director, Darren Aronofski, or at least it was the first movie that led me to his work in a focused way. The Fountain is quite honestly an exhausting film, emotionally and physically. For this reason I've only seen it twice, which is mournful since this movie probably deserves 5+ watch-throughs to really wrap my head around the entire plot and its intricacies.

The film focuses around two main characters played by Rachel Weisz and Hugh Jackman, in three different timelines. (Before you ask, yes, the movie is long, but worth it.) 

Three stories - one each from the past, present, and future - about men in pursuit of eternity with their love. A conquistador in Mayan country searches for the tree of life to free his captive queen; a medical researcher, working with various trees, looks for a cure that will save his dying wife; a space traveler, traveling with an aged tree encapsulated within a bubble, moves toward a dying star that’s wrapped in a nebula; he seeks eternity with his love. The stories intersect and parallel; the quests fail and succeed.
— IMDB

The Fountain was recommended to me by an old co-worker as, "a movie you watch and then go sit outside and stare into the sky, not knowing what to say or think." I think that perfectly encapsulates the film for me and my feeling toward it. This was another film I watched shortly before I moved out of my parents house and a film that made me confront love and loss, not toward my father, this time but in a future love interest.

It's long been my fear that I would meet someone and fall madly in love only to find myself or my significant other entangled in a terminal disease at a younger-than-old age. As you may know from previous posts, I now have that "significant other", so I'm not sure I ever want to revisit The Fountain any time soon, in the attempt to dodge my own worries and anxiety.

This movie isn't all doom and gloom in my memories though. I think about this movie from time to time and appreciate the health, however temporary that may be, my fiancee and I share. It's sad to come to the realization that someone close to you will pass one day, but hopefully her and I won't have to experience that anytime soon. Plus, I somewhat lived it out literary-wise a few months ago in a novella I wrote and am currently attempting to publish. Though the characters are completely fictitious in my book, they bear a resemblance to how I feel about Tiff, my significant other.

All these years, all these memories, there was you. You pull me through time.
— Hugh Jackman

4. HER

 Photo courtesy of  Roger Ebert

Photo courtesy of Roger Ebert

Even in the best state of mind, this movie can really make you feel peculiar. I watched it during one of my most depressing junctures in life which proved to be a poor decision. I had seen it years before this and remembered bits and pieces, but it wasn't until my second viewing that everything hit home. Mid-movie I walked outside, fell flat on the grass in the middle of a park, and lost touch with reality for a small amount of time, (no drugs or alcohol needed).

This movie is set in a not-so-distant future, but deals with city landscapes and technology we don't yet have. This film is great at making you feel isolated with the character even though he has friends and lives in a large, active city. He's a poet of sorts and besides the extreme introverted-ness, him and I had a lot in common (a couple years ago). I found a connection.

A sensitive and soulful man earns a living by writing personal letters for other people. Left heartbroken after his marriage ends, Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) becomes fascinated with a new operating system which reportedly develops into an intuitive and unique entity in its own right. He starts the program and meets “Samantha” (Scarlett Johansson), whose bright voice reveals a sensitive, playful personality. Though “friends” initially, the relationship soon deepens into love.
— Google

Joaquin Phoenix plays this main character and I really can't imagine anyone better for it. The melancholy and sadness he brings to this role are perfect; almost too perfect. It should be obvious to note that I don't relate to him because I, too, fell in love with an operating system, but because of his situation in life and how life just seems to drag along for a bit while you allow depression to live within you.

The ending, which I won't spoil, is incredibly beautiful cinematography. I can imagine it as I write this like I'm watching it on a screen in 4K. Maybe, at the time, I did need this movie in my life?

You know what, I can over think everything and find a million ways to doubt myself. And since Charles left I’ve been really thinking about that part of myself and, I’ve just come to realize that, we’re only here briefly. And while I’m here, I wanna allow myself joy. So fuck it.
— Amy Adams

5. Perks of Being a Wallflower

 Photo courtesy of  Sky

Photo courtesy of Sky

I watched this film during my depression as well which makes so much sense as to why I connected to it. I think there's something romantic about being a wallflower in real life. The act of being misunderstood and then being found out by someone is a beautiful thing. It's carrying a secret that only a select group of people or less get to see; the secret being: who you really are.

It doesn't feel beautiful or wonderful being an outcast, but those small moments when you can escape the anxiety and be the real you in front of others - those moments are worth it all. The main character in this film is discovered as being this creative human being and through that exposure, other repressed secrets reveal themselves, good and bad.

To me, it was a movie that teaches you that no matter how bad life gets, it'll get better. Then worse. Then better. Then worse. Then better again. Life ebbs and flows to a random beat we can't control, so I learned to let go. My approach to difficult situations has now changed from the nagging sting of anxiety to, "I'll figure it out. Life will always go on." It also taught me to appreciate the hell out of each moment in life. I now take time when I'm on an adventure or when I'm just really happy and I just soak it in; these are blips in time that I'll never get back again. One day when I'm old, I believe these moments will be all that ever really mattered on my journey through life.

 Photo courtesy of  We Heart It

Photo courtesy of We Heart It