Film, Venue

Films to Watch This International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day is next week – what better way to celebrate than to watch some films that are centred around women?   

Mamma Mia (2008)

Love it or hate it, it’s a classic and has aged like a fine wine – it’s popular with the wine mums too. What I like about Mamma Mia is how it’s not afraid to show middle-aged women supporting each other and living their best lives without men. It also brings to light the overlooked dedication of single mums:  Meryl Streep and Amanda Seyfried’s relationship glows on the screen. Jam-packed with tune after tune of ABBA hits, this film is subtly radical in showing female empowerment.

The Lost Daughter (2021)

If you still fancy something with a Mediterranean setting but a more unsettling depiction of motherhood, then this is the film for you. The Lost Daughter is far from feel-good, but certainly thought provoking, showing life as a mother like “a crushing responsibility.” Olivia Colman, (our Norwich-born queen), plays the main character of Leda Caruso, whose life and memories are slowly revealed to us when she observes a mother losing her daughter on a Greek Island.

The Farewell (2019)

International Women’s Day means celebrating women of all cultures – The Farewell is a bittersweet story that explores the mixed-heritage of Billi, a Chinese-American woman, who revisits Changchun to see her grandmother (Nai Nai). Billi is conflicted when she finds out her family have kept their Nai Nai’s terminal illness hidden from her. With beautiful shots of Chinese culture and life shaped by familial values, this film balances itself beautifully between the melancholic and sentimental. This film feels like a first (at least for me) in showing a meaningful grand-mother and grand-daughter relationship.

Tangerine (2015)

International Women’s Day is also a strive towards gender equality – Tangerine is an acclaimed film that represents the lives of transgender sex workers. The story follows Sin-Dee, and her best friend Alexandra, who hunt down Sin-Dee’s pimp and partner after finding out he has been cheating on her. Sean Baker is clever to create a comedic feeling similar to Booksmart, while still highlighting the harsh realities of a neglected area[PE1]  in LA. The entire film was also shot on iPhones!

Happy International Women’s Day!

Don’t Look Up: Review 

Don’t Look Up takes the best of Adam McKay’s Saturday Night Live humour to produce an endlessly thought-provoking satire of political inaction, digitalised narcissism and the climate crisis.

The all-star cast includes Jennifer Lawrence as Kate Dibiasky, and Leonardo DiCaprio as Dr. Randall Mindy, her professor. Kate discovers a large comet at the beginning of the film, the credit for which is gradually stripped from her – largely by the tabloid media- as the comet’s world-ending nature comes to light. In a narrative not limited to fiction, Dr. Mindy awards himself fame and credit for her work without long-term responsibility, as experienced by many women in professional male-dominated fields. 

Simultaneously to the demonisation of Dibiasky, we see Meryl Streep and Cate Blanchett – the President and famed newsreader respectively – introduced as calculated, self-absorbed women despite their influential positions. Blanchett’s fake teeth and spectacular makeup transform her into an eerily familiar right-wing mouthpiece , whilst close-up shots of Streep’s excessive gold jewelry reflect a power-hungry, uncaring and polarised political environment. These parallels add a level of sincerity and immediacy to the film despite the post-modern form.  The disaster fiction is interrupted by documentary-style nature clips and comedic text graphics – one example of such is the contrast created when Dibiasky vomits, overwhelmed by impending extinction, as the title overlay appears accompanied by upbeat sitcom-reminiscent music.

This careful composition is also conveyed through the title, “Don’t Look Up.” Though obnoxiously flaunted in the film through protest scenes reminiscent of the Capitol raid, MAGA and anti-vax rallies, it is more subtly encapsulated in its reflection of digital personalisation (including the likes of your TikTok FYP). The Musk-inspired Isherwell proposes a dystopian algorithm-induced emotional reduction – describing “life without the stress of living” – this laugh-out-loud line reflects an increasing desire for a life free of nagging, worry and capitalist constraints. It evokes the words of Dibiasky: “maybe the destruction of the planet isn’t supposed to be fun”- either way, we will continue to work, shop and scroll to fulfill our role as a cog in the capitalist machine.

We have an inability to “look up” from our own interests and daily struggles, in a similar way to each character. Our breakups, professional success and family struggles all feel just as immediate to us as mass extinction. Here fictional and factual narratives align to appeal to the guilt of an eco-conscious viewer: despite our increasing awareness of the climate crisis, most of us fail to take meaningful action and face a fate akin to those of Don’t Look Up.  

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Laura Patterson

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June 2022
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