The theme of ‘renewal’ gave me a little bit more difficulty when thinking of what films I would recommend. But then it suddenly dawned on me. Renewal could be an excellent prism through which to view films where the lead character(s) go through a process of change that leads to their redemption, even though the journey may be difficult at times. I think that this time of year is a good time to evaluate what we’ve been through over the past year and to plan our journeys for the future. What better way to do this than in a cathartic manner through film?
The first film I would like to recommend is one that I came late to, having only recently watched the DVD. That film is Gravity (2013) and I found it to to be an intense viewing experience. The film deals with the difficulties that a small group of astronauts experience when trying to fix the Hubble telescope in space. The film’s focus is of the protagonist Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), and her powerful development and evolution. The story is quite metaphysical and though it would be classed as a science fiction film I was struck with how deep the religious and re-birth aspects are that run throughout. I won’t give any spoilers away but will say that if you’re looking for a film to represent renewal of a main character in terms of evolution of personality and bravery you can’t go wrong with watching Gravity!
The second film that I would like to recommend is The Pursuit of Happyness (2006). I know that opinion has been divided over this film (mainly due to it’s central message and that it deviates slightly from actual events). I would also not always agree with it central message that being incredibly rich solves all of life’s problems. However, the emotional intensity of the acting in this film is what sways it for me to recommend it for the theme of ‘renewal’. The Pursuit of Happyness tells the real life tale of Chris Gardner’s struggle with homelessness and being the sole carer of his son after the breakdown of his job and relationship in San Francisco. His one hope is to win the coveted position at a stock brokerage firm during a competitive internship against nineteen other candidates. The sheer tenacity of the central character and the strength and difficulties that he goes through with his son to achieve his ambition are astonishing. The central performances from Will Smith and his real life son Jaden are excellent and I think this is one of the best film roles I have seen Will Smith act in. Will was nominated for an Oscar, losing out to Forest Whitaker for The Last King of Scotland. The acting in the scene where he has barricaded himself and his son into a tube station toilet overnight to sleep is astonishing, as is Will Smith’s acting in the final dramatic scene. This is an emotional journey to go through and you do really root for that ‘happy’ ending, for everything to turn out ok in the end.
Ray is the final film that I would like to recommend on the subject of renewal for January. Jamie Foxx was awarded a well deserved Oscar and BAFTA for best actor in this role playing Ray Charles. This film being a biopic does differ from actual events like above. However, the journey that the central character undertakes is astonishing. We follow the story of Ray Charles from extreme poverty as a child in Georgia through family tragedy, discrimination in the form of racism, overcoming blindness and drug addiction. All of these struggles occurring whilst Ray was creating some amazing music that has been very influential on subsequent recording artists. It really is a great film and Jamie Foxx is incredible in how much he resembled Ray Charles in his physical movement and voice. I first watched Ray when I had gone through stressful experiences of my own and I felt it cathartic to watch this character’s journey. The film does offer a kind of redemptive hope and channels the power of psychotherapy to help when life throws up stumbling blocks in your journey’s path.
These are the three films that I’ve come up with for the themes of ‘renewal’ in January, can you think of any others that you would like to nominate?