By Ben Helme
If I’m honest, I find most ‘feel-good’ films mawkish, underdeveloped and a bit cringey. There are thousands of emaciated ‘we put aside our differences and learnt the value of friendship’ films. The problem is, it can be jarring to watch something affroninglly jolly when you’re not in that mood. As such, I’ve tried to pick some films that are uplifting, but that won’t be discordant for January. At the top of the list are some straight-forward romps, towards the bottom, some weird and wonderful oddballs.
When Harry Met Sally
‘I’ll have what she’s having’
It lives up to the hype. Perhaps the most famous rom-com out there, it has charm, believability, and a fantastic script. It can be a little syrupy (hence it’s at the beginning of the list) but if you feel like a conventional rom-com might work for you, it’s a great one to pick.
A fundamentally ‘nice’ movie, with a surprising amount of substance. The jokes consistently land, the performances convince, and every plot beat feels earned, even as the action spirals out of control. Most of all, the characters are horribly relatable, or at least recognisable. It’s a great feel-good teen movie – just as funny, but slightly more wholesome than Mean Girls (the benchmark).
What’s more, people sing karaoke to Alanis Morissette, which should happen in every movie.
Comedy Specials: James Acaster’s Repertoire and Taylor Tomlinson’s Quarter-Life Crisis
These are my favourite Netflix comedy specials – Acaster brings eccentric energy; Tomlinson, exhaustion. They’re laugh-a-minute shows; Acaster’s ability to find the hilarious needle in a very mundane haystack grants him more than enough content to fill four hours without a quality dip. Tomlinson’s show is shorter, and perhaps more acute – every phrase is saturated with misanthropy, and she identifies the funniest ‘things you aren’t meant to say’ without resorting to being crass or bigoted. Both shows are relatable, and very, very funny. If you don’t feel like committing to a film, these can keep you entertained.
The most emotionally resonant film on the list, this rom-com, centred around a close-knit Italian-American family in New York, has masses of heart. It oozes warmth, and contains, in an interaction between the main character’s aunt and uncle, the most romantic scene I’ve seen. It’s an unconventional but lovely film. Also, they truly let Nicholas Cage loose, and he’s maniacal.
Apparently people hate this movie, but it’s my Citizen Kane. It’s a retelling of an array of fairy tales, which fuse into a fantastic farce. The animation is shockingly bad, and as it’s a kids’ film it’s all quite straightforward, but it’s far too fun, and far too funny, for that to matter. Switch your brain off and have a great time.
Child’s Play (2019 remake)
There’s more than one sort of pick-me-up. A campy horror is about as far from melancholy as it’s possible to be. As such, if you don’t want to watch something too sentimental, a horror-comedy is an excellent choice. Scream, Scary Movie, Final Destination, The Babysitter, Zombeavers – there are plenty of options out there, without any covert depressing undercurrents. My top choice is the 2019 Child’s Play remake, which is of course based around the villainous doll ‘Chucky’. It’s essentially goth Toy Story.
Being John Malkovich
Yes, that John Malkovich. If traditional comedies don’t normally do it for you, this might be a good bet. It’s very, very strange. Craig is an unemployed puppeteer, who finds work in an office on the seven-and a-halfth floor of a building (the ceilings are low).
He passes his days there having bizarre conversations with his colleague Maxine, until one day, in his own words:
Craig Schwartz: There’s a tiny door in my office, Maxine. It’s a portal and it takes you inside John Malkovich. You see the world through John Malkovich’s eyes… and then after about 15 minutes, you’re spit out… into a ditch on the side of the New Jersey Turnpike.
Maxine: Sounds great! Who the fuck is John Malkovich?
If you like absurdism, it’s a must-watch.
Hi, I’m Ben. I’m from Sandwich in Kent, and I’m in my second year, studying PPE. Aside from writing, I love hiking, reading and finding hidden places in London. I also love TV and film – if you have any suggestions for something I should watch, especially anything prettily shot or spooky, I’d love to hear. If you ever feel like discussing something I’ve written, please message me – my email’s email@example.com, or my Instagram’s benh3lme!