As the outbreak of coronavirus continues to disrupt millions of lives around the country, and indeed across the world, movies, more than ever, can provide some much-needed respite. Here’s the list of ten somewhat feel-good films — streaming on Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hotstar — that will help you detach for a while from the lockdown:
1. Tu Hai Mera Sunday (Netflix):
Five friends, a weekly football get-together, and Mumbai: that is all you need to know about Milind Dhaimade’s debut. Because like most feel-good movies, the charm of Tu Hai Mera Sunday doesn’t lie in the plot, but the small moments lighting its crevices. Cutting among the lives of five different friends — and thereby also telling the stories of five different ‘Indias’ — this dramedy is marked by humour, warmth, and tenderness. It’s also a timely reminder of what can happen when we shelve our cynicism and open our hearts to the world. In Tu Hai Mera Sunday, the world smiles back.
2. Chef (Amazon Prime):
After a public fight with a famous food critic, the head chef at an upscale restaurant in Los Angeles, Carl (Jon Favreau) quits his job and starts a food truck in Miami. In his new avatar, Carl doesn’t just rediscover his long-lost passion — Cuban cuisine — but also reaches out to his son and ex-wife. Directed by Favreau, Chef is a simple, endearing story of reigniting old flames, both personal and professional, and how it’s never too late to start anew.
3. Harishchandrachi Factory (Netflix):
Paresh Mokashi’s debut goes backstage to reveal the barebones of a fabled story: how Dadasaheb Phalke made the first Indian film, Raja Harishchandra (1913). A paean to intellectual curiosity, and a close look at the rich rewards of perseverance, Harischandrachi Factory, unlike most ‘inspirational’ biopics, unfolds with a lot of gentle humour. Released in 2009, this drama is a memorable exemplar of the Marathi New Wave.
4. Isle of Dogs (Hotstar):
Three words: Wes Anderson and dogs. It’s the kind of reassurance everyone needs in the time of a pandemic. The outbreak of a canine flu (!) in the fictitious Japanese city of Megasaki causes the mayor to banish all dogs to Trash Island. Among them is Spots, the beloved dog of the mayor’s nephew, Atari, who flies to the island to rescue him. Like a typical Andersonian drama, Isle of Dogs is characterised by a unique world, meticulous attention to detail, and oddball humour. Besides, it’s also a wonderful tribute to language and the notion of alienation — the dogs, for instance, talk in English while the Japanese, spoken by humans, isn’t subtitled. It’s the kind of drama that dignifies empathy.
5. Khubsoorat (Netflix):
Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s 1980 movie is ingeniously sly: a social commentary in the garb of comedy. Centred on a middle-class family ruled by a controlling matriarch, Khubsoorat presents a slice of life known to many Indian households, one where decorum and order reign supreme, even at the cost of happiness. But one day, rebellion surfaces in the form of a young girl (Rekha). Given its premise, the film could have been easily morose, but Mukherjee chooses to make it fun and sunny, implying that not all revolutions need to be bleeding hearts. Sometimes humour is as devastating.
6. 50/50 (Netflix):
A drama about a cancer-stricken protagonist typically doesn’t fit the criterion of an uplifting movie. Yet 50/50 is a wonderful outlier. Featuring impressive performances from Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, and Anna Kendrick, 50/50 revolves around a young journalist (Gordon-Levitt) facing a devasting possibility: that, suffering from cancer, he may die soon. Despite its bleak logline, 50/50 is inherently joyful, consistently using humour to tell an affecting story: of muted grievances, tender friendship, and new beginnings.
7. Njan Prakashan (Netflix):
The hero of this 2018 Malayalam drama, like many Indian men, aspires to go abroad. For that, he’s ready to anything: cheat, betray, even change his name. The actor playing that guy, Fahadh Faasil, Indian cinema’s eternal furtive figure, turns a complex character compelling — and funny. Light on plot but heavy on mental manoeuvres that humanises flawed individuals, Njan Prakashan is eventually a humorous, warm take on directionless men.
8. Dazed and Confused (Netflix):
Floating an impromptu keg party, smoking grass, forming new connections, trying to fit in, wanting to be cool: Richard Linklater’s third film unfolds like a (particularly eventful) day in the life of many teenagers. Linklater, hailing from Texas, set this movie in Austin in the ’70s, making it even more specific, presumably capturing a series of snapshots from his own teenage years. Set over the course of one night, following a bunch of motley high schoolers, Dazed and Confused is distinctively American and confidently understated, capturing the pulse of growing up with nearly no fuss at all.
9. Angoor (Amazon Prime):
William Shakespeare can never not be a part of our lives (even while searching for breezy comedies during lockdown). Based on the master’s The Comedy of Errors, Gulzar’s Angoor takes a famous film trope — of mistaken identity — to its most nutty conclusion. Centred on the pair of two identical twins (a businessman and his servant) who also have same names, Angoor is a delightful comedy, suffused with innocence, whose warmth never runs out.
10. Inside Out (Hotstar):
Pixar’s movies, it seems, have a fundamental obligation to make you feel good. It’s the kind of parallel world that this world needs more of — especially right now. But its 2015 masterpiece, Inside Out, is even better. It is joyous and profound. On the surface the drama is about an 11-year-old girl, Riley, who misses her old home and friends, as she moves from small-town Minnesota to San Francisco. The film then literally dives into her head, capturing the personifications of her five basic emotions: Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, and Anger. Or, in other words, it’s a story of how feelings have feelings. Backed by a layered screenplay — that is both cerebral and entertaining — Inside Out, in essence, tells a wonderful story of how joy and sadness complete each other, that why we need the night to cherish the morning. It’s a movie that achieves a rare feat: it empathises with sadness. Hold its hand and hop on, the movie seems to suggest, it won’t be around forever. As they say, and as we’ve always known, this too shall pass.