by Uma Mody
“Loneliness has followed me my whole life. Everywhere” (Taxi Driver, 1976).
The cold weather and dark nights are no help in dealing with feelings of isolation and solitude. With the semester coming to an end, and exam season at our doorstep, it’s hard to stay motivated especially when your routine is changing, and you are feeling less connected to the world around you. Sometimes, this is calling for a much-needed distraction.
Movies connect us. They evoke some kind of feeling within us viewers. It is a way to bond, without having to do too much thinking, or a way to connect with characters while participating in as little analysis and conversation as possible. But sometimes, movies allow feelings of loneliness to thrive. It can be an escape that hits too close to home.
To find out not only how to cope with loneliness, but also how to embrace how common the feeling is, I’ve asked around for some opinions regarding movies. The idea here is not necessarily to show good movies that can be associated with loneliness, but rather, what people are watching that made them feel this way or remind them of so, and how this experience varies from person to person. What I may define as loneliness may not be what you would define loneliness as.
We’re starting off with an obvious classic. Home Alone (1990) directed by Chris Columbus is an iconic story of loneliness, with ties to childhood and of course, the holidays. This feels fitting to be added to the list for the December issue, but beyond its story of a kid being left out from a family trip, it can also act as a movie to cope with loneliness. Its satisfying ending lets you find comfort in Kevin’s reunion with his family, though fictional.
Next is Marie Antoinette (2006), directed by Sophia Coppola. A visually captivating film that is not based on historical accuracy, it shares a perspective rooting for Marie Antoinette. It’s a colourful movie, where art and themes collide, allowing the viewer to learn and think a bit differently about the titular character. Loneliness is captivated by Marie as she’s “separated from everything she knows,” comments second-year student Virginia, “They juxtapose really extravagant chaotic scenes with her crying alone in palace rooms and carriages.” This film doesn’t have too much of a climax, but acclaimed director Sophia Coppola consistently returns to her theme of isolation, showing through a period piece how class, privilege, and gender relate to loneliness.
“With loss, often comes loneliness” shares Nissa, in referring to Sound of Metal (2020), directed by Darius Marder. The story involves a drummer who suddenly loses his hearing and struggles to overcome this loss. Nissa shares, “the ability to hear plays such a substantial part in communication and connection. Take it away, and there appears a barrier of sound waves which isolates you completely.” As the drummer learns to deal with detachment from the world, he begins to also come to terms with this irreversible change. The movie, although at times heart-breaking and perhaps not directly relatable, is an emotional story that lets viewers reflect and truly value their current connections to the world.
My last contributor shares the movie Aftersun (2022), directed by Charlotte Wells, a moving story about a father-daughter relationship. Kalaishiga, a third-year student, explains how “I was just experiencing my childhood and adult self at the same time.” Oftentimes, loneliness comes from feelings of entering adulthood. With time and life passing us by, we forget to consider that this is something we are all going through together. This coming-of-age movie explores the individual and collective growth of the pair, tackling feelings of isolation. A tear-jerker, it guarantees that you “leave knowing more about yourself,” as Kalaishiga shares, “I’m human, I’m able to reflect, and I’m able to have these emotions.” Loneliness feels as though we are alone, when in fact all it takes is this ability to feel something for us to realize we are still connected to the world.
Now, it’s my turn to share a movie. I certainly don’t feel lonely or think about loneliness too much when I watch this film, but instead, the opposite. It brings me memories of my childhood and of hanging out with my dad, and I relive it every year around the holiday season. The movie series is no other than Harry Potter (2001-2011). I’ve lost the number of times I’ve seen each of the eight movies, but I re-live its thrills each time I watch, as if it’s my first time. Loneliness and isolation are themes for some of its characters, but I like to think the movie works hard to prove that friendship and feelings of connection to others is a very valuable thing.
I hope at least some of these movies will be added to your list of “to watch”! Although loneliness is often associated with the loss of something, it appears from these movies that themes of isolation are often bundled together with the gain of something (else, perhaps). A reunion, an emotional lesson learned, a reminder that you are not alone. These are only a few examples of gains from things that appear to be losses.