The important things in life to me are often the small things. The movies that are my favorite are no different; they are my favorite because they contain a relatable moment, a character, actress, line or emotion that I understand, that strikes me with beauty and originality, that teaches me to think in a new way. Here are five of my favorite movies that feature women who help me along the journey.
Pride and Prejudice (the 2005 version): The moment Mr. Darcy subconsciously moves his hand as if it’s on fire after he walks away from first touching Elizabeth Bennett. The way the director shows Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy dancing alone while there’s actually a crowd of people all around them, capturing that feeling of deep time. The way Mr. Darcy’s profession of love to Elizabeth comes out of nowhere. This version of the movie is full of gems.
The Help: This movie captures the truth of womanhood and our relationships with each other so beautifully, in all their nuances: the ways we as women hurt each other and the ways we as women love each other. Our strength of character. The pain of not being chosen and the deep dignity it takes to walk away, still whole. I love each of the women who make up this movie: Skeeter’s character resonates deeply with me. Celia Foote’s character provides some of the bravest and most truthfully painful moments in any movie I’ve seen. And I want to clap for Minny Jackson anytime she does anything.
La La Land: Brilliantly and intentionally created, this movie encapsulates a feeling: the enchantment of Hollywood’s in-front-of-the-camera Golden Age combined with the behind-the-scenes postmodern critique exposing materialism and fakeness double as metaphor for the differences between falling in love in movies and relationships in real life. I love how this movie’s ending frustrates expectations, creating an ending that is, in my opinion, very happy. Plus, we get to watch two people argue in a way that is true-to-life on-screen: there is no resolution, it goes on with pauses in which neither character knows what to say, and the things that are said hurt because they are true. This movie is not about romance but about the ways we help each other in life become who we always wanted and were meant to be. The last 15 minutes are some of my favorite in cinema.
The Secret Life of Bees: I love Alicia Keys’ portrayal of June, a fiercely independent woman who is afraid to love a good man too much. The scene in which she falls down on the grass laughing and then cries is one of the most beautiful I’ve seen. The maternal, feminine spirituality portrayed in this movie is a deep well of power that has been mostly unacknowledged in the patriarchal societies most major world religions were and are shaped by. Plus, Lily’s struggle to believe she is lovable and come to terms with her mother’s humanity is beautifully portrayed. It’s a movie that hurts because maybe we can see pieces of ourselves in these raw, bold and very human women.
Little Women (the 1994 version): I love each of the March sisters, their mother and their great-aunt and the gamut of female strength portrayed through each of their unique personalities. I love that women in this movie are allowed to be intelligent and well-read, have aspirations besides marriage and have the aspiration of marriage. I love that this movie pays tribute to domesticity and women’s matters as important and puts them in the foreground, and I love that this movie portrays sacrificing and waiting for family as heroic.