Text by Lindsay Pugh
After all the parties have ended and extended family have gone their separate ways, it’s typical to feel a bit exhausted. The holiday season is a fun, magical time, but can also be overwhelming, especially if you’re the person responsible for most of the planning or travel. I like to recover from the excitement by slowing down the pace and taking some time for myself. If you’re feeling burnt out like me and crave solitude, I suggest you pour a sizable glass of wine, grab a cozy blanket, and get comfy on the couch with a few excellent films.
The films I recommend below have been chosen because of their exceptional production design, carefully considered mise-en-scène, and transportive sense of place. They won’t stress you out or make you overthink plot or character motivations, but they’re not vapid. They exude the sense of tranquility that I crave most and watching them helps me feel centered and ready to take on 2018.
“Bright Star” (2009) by Jane Campion
Set in 1818 England, this film chronicles the last three years of John Keats’s life and relationship with Fanny Brawne. It’s beautiful, sweeping, lush, and my ultimate crush, Ben Whishaw, is in it. Every single frame is drop-dead gorgeous, a testament to Campion and Greig Fraser, the director of photography. “Bright Star” will remind you of warm summer days spent lying in the grass, lost in a good book.
“Something’s Gotta Give” (2003) by Nancy Meyers
If I could live in one house from a Meyers movie, I would choose Erica’s (Diane Keaton) palatial Southampton estate from “Something’s Gotta Give.” This house actually sold for $41 million in 2014, which makes me sad. I used to daydream about winning the lottery, buying it, and drinking a glass of Côtes-du-Rhône in a white turtleneck with confidence on the wraparound porch.
“Old Joy” (2006) by Kelly Reichardt
This simple, melancholy film makes me nostalgic for the friends I grew apart from after college. It’s weird to go from incredible connections and inside jokes to weird, forced small talk. Embarking on a camping trip set to Yo La Tengo in the magical, verdant Pacific Northwest is the perfect way to reflect and come to terms with the past. “Old Joy” makes me want to abandon my current life and move to the Pacific Northwest immediately.
“Swimmer” (2012) by Lynne Ramsay
This short, black and white film is one of the best I’ve seen in a long time. Commissioned by the Cultural Olympiad of Great Britain, it follows a young man’s journey along the coastline of the British Isles. Weirdly enough, I think I’ve dreamed about this film before. It’s deeply meditative and reminds me how much better life is when I’m doing something that connects me to nature.
“Lost in Translation” (2003) by Sofia Coppola
Without a doubt, this is Coppola’s best feature film and I could watch it 5,000 times without ever growing sick of or bored with it. Tokyo is dazzling, scary, and exhilarating, but lonely and otherworldly at the same time. Seeing the city through Charlotte’s (Scarlett Johansson) eyes as her life and perception begin to change is like being on the edge of a skyscraper and looking down for one stomach-churning second.
“Orlando” (1992) by Sally Potter
Sandy Powell is one of my favorite costume designers and her talents are on full display in this film. Orlando (Tilda Swinton) travels through several centuries of British history and lives many different lives, but never in a crummy outfit. Whether he’s in a white shirt with a high collar and ruffled cuffs or she’s wearing a huge ball gown, the clothes perfectly complement each scene.
If you need more films to help transport you on a virtual vacation, check out Le CiNéMa Club. They stream one film every week for free and generally have great content. Mubi is also a wonderful resource for finding new, cool films to watch. I’ve been steadily working my way through this list with zero regrets.