FILM RECS: EXPLORING ISOLATION
April 18th, 2020
Words by Abigail Baldwin · Collage by Alia Wilhelm
I’ve always found movies to be my greatest comfort or, at the very least, my favorite distraction in times of trouble. I put this list together to serve a couple different purposes: On the one hand, I’m enjoying films that examine isolation and relate, perhaps in an exaggerated way, to the experience we're all sharing. But not every movie on the list is meant to cheer you up. Sometimes I want to dig into how much everything sucks and just let it out. Other times, I need to escape the walls of my apartment and remind myself that there is a world out there and a future filled with hope. Some days I go outside just to look at the sky for a few minutes, to remind myself that it exists. Many films on this list are meant to have the same effect. In this crisis, we’re all under the same sky.
Alfred Hitchcock is the move if you’re looking to be transported to a dark and suspenseful reality devoid of boredom. Rear Window is an obvious quarantine watch, but I prefer this crime thriller set entirely in one apartment. The story plays on in ten long takes and has a real-time feel. You will escape into the twisted subconscious of egotistical murderers for exactly one hour and twenty-two minutes.
I find horror movies oddly comforting in a crisis. There's a catharsis in living someone else’s disaster scenario instead of your own. Alien is an influential survival film set in the isolation of a spacecraft. Sigourney Weaver is the hero I wish I could be.
3. Grey Gardens
Watching the documentary, Grey Gardens, is a jaw dropping, uncomfortable ride through the lives of a formerly upper class, reclusive mother and daughter. It won't necessarily cheer you up during isolation, but it will give you a window into the minds of two women you otherwise would never meet. It is as delightful as it is disturbing and may inspire you to put pen to paper and write a think piece about Little Edie’s relationship to her mother.
If you’re in quarantine with only one other person, watching this movie together might inspire conversation. Persona is a perfect watch if you’re ready to spend the rest of quarantine fixated on deciphering its meaning. It’s about two women, a stage actress who now refuses to speak, and her nurse, alone at a seaside cottage together. It’s a twisted tale of isolation and obsession that undoubtedly influenced 2019’s The Lighthouse.
Beaches is a heartwarming and heartbreaking tale of friendship. It features some of the most charming musical comedy from Bette Midler and fabulous 80s fashion. I started writing letters to every friend I’ve ever had after watching Beaches. If you don’t have a pen-pal yet, this movie will make you want one.
This is an excellent movie about home, friendship, loss and belonging. It’s a definite thinker. It will give you pain and catharsis while also providing a commentary on gentrification and the housing crisis! What else could you ask for? If you want more, this film delivers a warmth not only in it’s story but in its style. The cinematography is lavish and unhurried and accompanied by a poetically beautiful score by composer Emile Mosseri.
Clue is a wonderfully delicious comic relief set entirely in one mansion. Although most of us aren’t quarantined in a red-carpeted, wood-paneled, manor of MURDER, we can pretend we are while watching this. Yes, it is based on the board game, which makes for another fabulous isolation passtime.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been getting really nostalgic about my youth during quarantine. I know a lot of people are quarantined in their childhood home, which can bring about a lot of memories and reflection. I’m far away from my family, so quarantine for me has created a lot of yearning. Daisies is a pretty bonkers look at teenage rebellion and it’s an absolute aesthetic feast to watch. Plus, watching it is like taking a really great experimental film class, except you don’t have to write a paper or do a zoom conference with your peers afterward, unless you want to.
Samsara is a non-narrative documentary that’s entirely made up of gorgeous 70mm visuals shot over five years in 25 different countries. It’s essentially a visual meditation on nature, spirituality and the human experience. Since we can’t travel right now, this movie is the next best thing.
10. Faces Places
Faces Places is a beautiful and uplifting doc co-directed by the late-great cinema hero Agnès Varda. It will take you on a journey through rural France and explore themes of friendship, worker solidarity, and mortality. It’s so warm and charming and will provide you with very necessary hope in humanity.
Abigail Baldwin is a writer and movie-watcher originally from Boston, but currently quarantined at home in Los Angeles. You can find more at www.abigailbaldwin.com and follow her on Instagram @grimyhag
Alia Wilhelm is a Nearness co-founder. She works as a multimedia artist and director's assistant in London. You can follow her @aliiiiia and check out her work at www.aliawilhelm.com